For the Benefit of the Tunisian People (II)

TUNIS/BERLIN (Own report) - In light of massive protests against the Islamist dominated government in Tunisia, Berlin is pushing for a peaceful settlement and is trying to salvage its "transformation partnership" with Tunis, for which it has allocated 60 million Euros. Within the framework of this "transformation partnership," the Tunisian government has agreed to a number of deals providing new market shares for German businesses in that country. Tunisian workers should also be employed in the vacancies in Germany, which, due to miserable salaries, cannot otherwise be filled. The Tunisian government has also committed itself to giving greater consideration to German business interests, to being more attentive to thwarting the passage of migrants and cooperating with German repressive administrations. Berlin describes these measures as selfless aid to a North African country in a process of transformation. But in fact, they are aimed at strengthening German influence - in an alliance with the government in Tunis, whose Islamist orientation the masses are protesting against.

Role Model for the Region

Following initial cooperation offers made immediately after the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime in January 2011, the German government launched its so-called transformation partnership with Tunisia in early 2012, shortly after the Islamist Ennahda Party's overwhelming electoral victory in October 2011. On January 9, 2012, the German and Tunisian foreign ministers signed the Declaration of Intent, which was confirmed on September 12, 2012 by a "joint declaration," signed on the occasion of the first intergovernmental consultations. Berlin and Tunis plan to hold these consultations on a regular basis - at the level of state secretaries from their foreign, economic and economic cooperation ("development") ministries. Tunisia is the first Maghreb country with which Germany has engaged in a cooperation of this type, the foreign ministry explained. These consultations highlight "Tunisia's importance as a role model for the region," according to the "Joint Declaration," which generally describes the planned cooperation, as an act of generosity "for the benefit of the Tunisian people."[1]

Help for the Helpers

The cooperation is in fact particularly aimed at benefitting Germany's industry and the strategic interests of the German government, as the projects, listed in "Annex III" of the "Joint Declaration," signed September 2012, indicate. Some are structured similarly to those, initiated in the spring of 2012 and also executed within the framework of the "transformation partnership." Officially, this is about training orthopedic technicians. German doctors, who had visited Tunisia in March 2012, concluded that there is a great demand in the country for training in that field - particularly since "the need for prostheses" considerably increased "as a result of the uprisings in Tunisia and unrest in neighboring countries, particularly Libya."[2] Along with its Tunisian partner, "sequa," a German "development" agency, took charge of the training. This agency is sponsored by four business associations (51 percent) and the government owned "development" organization GIZ (49 percent). As is usually the case, a private firm soon was also benefitting from this non-profit undertaking. New machines, needed for the production of orthopedic devices, were ordered in the "development" partner's country: from go-tec in the West German city of Munster.

New "Guest Workers"

"Annex III" of the "Joint Declarations" is, benefitting the Asklepios Clinics, a Hamburg-based family business, considered the largest private hospital operator in Europe, in a different way. As throughout the branch, there is a "growing problem of finding qualified personnel," confirms the Asklepios spokesman.[3] It is common knowledge that this problem is due to the nursing staff being overworked and underpaid. "Annex III" assures that Asklepios will officially support the training of young Tunisian health care professionals in Hamburg and their eventual employment in German hospitals.[4] This is reminiscent of the recruitment of Tunisian "guest workers" in the 1960s, for jobs in German industry. They were needed for the low paying jobs and, having eventually lost their jobs, as was often the case, they are today left eking out a precarious existence in German cities, often encountering racism on the part of members of the German elite, such as Thilo Sarrazin, former board member of the Bundesbank.[5]

Testing German Interests

"Annex III," which, to a certain extent, is simply an aid program serving German industry, stipulates also that Tunisian authorities will "examine German private business interests in the upgrading of its seaports, airports and transportation infrastructure." It also includes the promotion of an educational project to implement "German services for vocational and advanced training for Tunisia's automotive components industry." Tunisia is an important site for several German automobile subcontractors such as Leoni (Nuremberg) and Dräxlmaier (Vilsbiburg/Bavaria), which, therefore can expect to benefit from vocational and advanced training for their employees. According to "Annex III," German personnel will advise Tunisian authorities in questions of "economic policy," "public commissions", "small and medium sized businesses" and in "trade policy." "German, as a foreign language," should generally be encouraged in Tunisia - with the help of the Goethe Institute.[6] Last year the Goethe Institute was already helping teach unemployed university graduates in intensive language courses and subsequently recruit them "as skilled workers for Tunisia-based enterprises."[7]

Consultations with Germany

Regulations in "Annex III," for example, the projects handling migration as well as "support in developing a border police" serve government interests. These are obviously aimed at thwarting undesired entry by way of the Mediterranean into the EU. Parallel to these measures, the Tunisian authorities, according to the text, must conduct "regular consultations" with "the liaison officers of the German Federal Office of Police and Federal Police dispatched to Tunis." German officials were already cooperating with the Ben Ali regime, while it was using brutally repressive means to combat numerous members of the current ruling parties - including Prime Minister Jebali.[8] To enhance direct German influence within Tunisia's government apparatus, "Annex III" calls for training measures for Tunisian officials to be carried out by the GIZ. In addition, the offer for training Tunisian diplomats at the Foreign Service Academy of the German Foreign Ministry will be expanded. Six to eight week courses for Tunisian officials and civil servants have already started. They are being "taught how to initiate and develop modern administrations" at the European Academy Berlin.[9]

Africa's Electricity for Eco-Europe

An "energy partnership," concluded January 9, 2012 and explicitly confirmed in the "Joint Declaration," was officially launched January 28, 2013. This also places Tunisia at the service of German interests. The German Minister of the Economy explained that this North African country "is an ideal partner for Germany," because "of its favorable conditions conducive to the expansion of wind and solar energy." German companies are "very interested in investing in the Tunisian energy sector."[10] The focus is on the "Desertec", a gigantic project of German companies, aimed at acquiring renewable energy from the North African desert regions to supplement the low cost supply to Europe. The project had been launched years ago with a massive publicity campaign, but is now endangered, urgently needing to show progress to overcome its crisis. ( reported.[11]) This could become possible if Tunisia would become more heavily engaged. From the German government's standpoint, the current protests against Tunis' Islamist dominated government are hardly conducive to the promotion of this and other German interests.

[1] Gemeinsame Erklärung anlässlich der ersten deutsch-tunesischen Regierungskonsultationen auf Staatssekretärsebene, Berlin, 12. September 2012
[2] Fortbildung für Orthopädietechniker in Tunesien; 24.01.2013
[3] Hamburger Klinik holt Pflegekräfte aus Tunesien; 04.02.2013
[4] You can find excerpts here
[5] "Many of the Arabs and Turks in this city, whose numbers have grown, due to an erroneous policy, serve no productive function, other than as fruit and vegetable vendors, and will also probably not develop a perspective. (...) The Arab and Turk birth rate is two to three times higher than their proportion in the population. Many are neither willing nor capable of integrating. The solution can only be to halt the influx, and whoever wants to marry, should do so abroad. Brides are being constantly delivered in addition. The Turkish girl, who is here, will be married off to an Anatolian; the Turkish boy, here, gets a bride from an Anatolian village. The Arabs are even worse. My view is, halt the influx altogether, with the exception of the highly qualified, and, perspectively, stop immigrant transfer benefits." Klasse statt Masse. Thilo Sarrazin im Gespräch, Lettre International September 2010.
[6] Anhang III zur Gemeinsamen Erklärung der Staatssekretäre anlässlich der Konsultationen am 12. September 2012, Berlin. You can find excerpts here.
[7] Parlamentarischer Staatssekretär Ernst Burgbacher setzt weiter auf Tunesien;
[8] see also Entwicklungsmodell Tunesien and Interview mit Marc Thörner
[9] Deutsch-tunesische Akademie für gute Regierungsführung; 04.12.2012
[10] Rösler und tunesischer Amtskollege Ridha Saidi starten Deutsch-Tunesische Energiepartnerschaft; 28.01.2013
[11] see also Kampf um den Wüstenstrom