Tunisia issues plea for help in fighting deprivation

Tunisia needs more help from the EU to end the deprivation that can be a breeding ground for terrorism, according to the country’s foreign minister.

The North African country wants to learn security lessons from the inquest into the deaths of 38 tourists, including 30 Britons, at the beach resort of Sousse in June 2015.

A six-week coroner’s inquest in London has shed a light on its security levels, with testimony that police officers slowed down on their way to the terrorist mass shooting.

Tunisia is heavily dependent on tourism to keep its economy afloat.

Khemaies Jhinaoui, appointed as foreign minister in a cabinet shake-up at the beginning of last year, told The Guardian: “It is right that the families of English tourists know what happened that day.

“The police service was not well prepared for this kind of terrorism. This country does not have a lot of resources and … after the revolution in 2011, so much was happening it was difficult to locate the greatest challenge.

“But after the terrorist attacks of 2015, we had to change our way of thinking, change our laws, attack money laundering, change our policing and increase our co-operation.

“We must keep learning lessons every day, and increase co-operation. If we do not try to learn lessons, we will not improve.”

Previously the country’s ambassador to Brazil, Jhinaoui convened an ecumenical prayer service after the deaths of 22 people in the shooting attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis in March 2015.

“Bardo was catastrophic, so I got all the ambassadors from all the countries affected, as well as the ambassador of the Holy See and imam and we had a collective prayer. We prayed together, and just said we were not going to be divided.”

Terrorism is both holding back growth, and acting as the spur to the government to speed up economic reform, Jhinaoui argued.

“The terrorists, they are the enemies of civilisation, and know now that by attacking the economy they are trying to make our democracy collapse so the best response is greater solidarity, and to say it is a good time for Europeans to return to Tunisia.

“The more people, the more British people that return to Tunisia the better,” he said.

“[Either way] there will be no going back and liberty will remain. I used never to read the newspapers in Tunisia because they were all the same. In fact, if I did read them I knew the opposite of what was written was the truth. Now they hold up a mirror to ourselves. It is not always a perfect sight, but it is the truth.”

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