Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsTunisia is a North African country of 11 million inhabitants and is part of what the EU calls its southern neighbourhood. In 2011, Tunisia went through a revolution, the Jasmine Revolution, that toppled a dictatorship which had lasted nearly 25 years and triggered a wider movement of uprisings in countries like Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco named the Arab Spring. This movement generated the hope that Tunisia could trigger a wider democratisation in the region. Many Tunisians living abroad went back to take part in the democratic transition, and despite difficulties in 2014, the country was able to elaborate a new constitution and to elect a new parliament and a new president.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsTunisia has strong potential due to its young population with a high degree of education and its thriving civil society, but the country faces a number of challenges. It has been affected by the turmoil in neighbouring Libya and by numerous terrorist attacks. Its economy, which relies highly on foreign investments and tourism, has suffered. In addition, the legacy of dictatorship, anti-democratic sentiments, and the divide between the wealthy coastal towns and poor peripheries remain issues that Tunisia struggles with. As a result, the EU has endeavoured to help consolidate the Tunisian democracy. The relationship between the EU and Tunisia finds its roots in the 1970s and has been formalised in 1995 through a bilateral trade agreement.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsBut with the Jasmine Revolution, it gained a renewed importance. The EU engaged to support electoral processes and democratic and socioeconomic reforms in the country by allocating 1.2 billion euros in grants and 800 million euros of macro financial assistance to Tunisia between 2011 and 2016. In 2012, a European neighbourhood policy action plan was launched and generated contracts, financial assistance, and enhanced relations in the fields of security, education, research, and innovation. In 2016, the EU commission and the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy launched a new strategy to strengthen EU support for Tunisia.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsIt included promoting good governance and public administration reform, boosting the role of civil society, fostering sustainable socioeconomic development, addressing disparities throughout society, providing support in tackling security challenges, and managing better migration and mobility. How does culture contribute to this enhanced relationship? A key example is the Tfanen-Tunisie Creative, a three-year programme to support the Tunisian culture sector through the attribution of grants and technical assistance funded by the EU in partnership with the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture, the EUNIC, and implemented by the British Council.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 secondsWith a budget of 2.4 million euros, it supports projects in different cultural sectors, including dramatic, visual, performing, and digital arts, publishing, music, tangible and intangible heritage, cinema, and cultural tourism, with the aim to reinforce the creative economy of the country, strengthen civil society, consolidate democracy, favour the professionalisation of cultural sectors, and enhance the role of culture as a vector for social cohesion. The Tfanen-Tunisie Creative programme shows how the EU is supporting culture as a way to tackle the wide range of social issues facing the country. Many of the projects are already developed.

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 secondsSome aim at reducing youth unemployment, for example, by offering training on cultural management and logistics, such as on the occasion of the street art festival of Kasr Hlel. Others at ensuring access to education and culture in disadvantaged and rural areas and at promoting regional development through art and heritage. Finally, a number aim to promote democracy, for example, by organising workshops on citizenship and at furthering gender equality, for example, by supporting the initiatives that give greater visibility to women in the arts scene, such as the Chouftouhonna Festival for Feminist Art. All of these initiatives paved the way for a more intense cultural cooperation between Tunisia and the EU.

The case of the Tfanen Tunisie Créative project

This video presents the role of culture in the EU’s external strategy in Tunisia, focusing on the Tfanen Tunisie Créative project conducted by the British Council in partnership with the Tunisia EUNIC cluster between 2017 and 2019.

The Tfanen Tunisie Créative project has two main objectives:

  • Promoting of Tunisian cultural diversity and access to culture at the local, national and international levels;

  • Supporting freedom of expression and creation of the younger generations fostering professionnalisation in the cultural sector:

3 types of funds have been allocated to a total of more than 50 projects between 2017 and 2018.

  • The local cultural engagement fund provided funding ranging from € 19,000 to € 50,000 to 36 projects aiming to bring culture to Tunisian citizens and to stimulate collaboration in the cultural sector.
  • The Creation support fund has allocated five grants ranging from € 83,000 to € 100,000. to large projects that support creation and artists.
  • The Festivals Sustainability and Heritage Development Fund has provided funding ranging from € 21,000 to € 70,000 to 15 projects.

This action paves the way for a more intense cultural cooperation between Tunisia and the EU. In 11 May 2017, Tunisia became the first country of the European neighbourhood to join the Creative Europe programme, normally targeted to EU member states. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture presented it as “one of the concrete deliverables of the recently adopted EU strategy on international cultural relations.” It will enable to access to fund to support cultural projects, trainings, festivals and to develop a more intense network with European cultural scenes. Creative Europe is a 1,3 billion European programme for the 2014-2020 period and aims to support the cultural and media sectors. It was not initially specifically intended for external action purposes. Its two core objectives are the promoting European cultural heritage and strengthening competitiveness of cultural and creative industries. But this external dimension is progressively being added to the programme.

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Cultural Diplomacy

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