The model of the Tunisian-Libyan partnership, to which the two countries’ officials aspire, will not be completed only by activating the previous joint 80 agreements.
Politicians in Tunisia and Libya have understood late that there is no longer time to save the remaining economies of their battered countries, in the dark political conditions, to seize the opportunity to move to the stage of reviving their historic trade partnership in all fields on a sustainable basis to help them end the crisis.
While the obstacles are numerous and troubling, the two countries have a united vision at present to make the Tunisian-Libyan region a future economic destination linked with other countries for the consolidation of trade relations in the Mediterranean basin.
The activation of these trade initiatives depends on the serious will of Tunisian and Libyan officials so that they can set foot on the path of avoiding the spectre of bankruptcy and giving a new breath to the economic partnership.
The stifling economic crisis that has affected the lives of citizens has forced the authorities of the two countries to adopt a new strategic partnership model to emerge quickly from the suffocating successive crises and save the living conditions of the people from total collapse. This is reflected in the establishment of the Tunisian-Libyan Business Council, Last week, an economic forum for the two countries in the capital Tripoli to develop a common roadmap.
The new model focuses mainly on promising areas, so that the Tunisians do not view the Libyan neighbour as a border state that supplies with the labour opportunities to absorb the unemployment that has plagued the Tunisian labour market after 2011 and that the Libyans, on the other hand, do not consider their neighbor small country a destination for tourism and medical treatment only.
There are indications that there is a political will to restore the spirit to commercial transactions and to strengthen the tourism sector, in particular, and it is clear that it has moved to the stage of implementation on the ground, with decisions that will be activated within a few weeks.
The return of heavily indebted Tunisians to Libyan destinations since 2011 would be the key to boosting economic ties after the state-owned company suspended flights to Libya after escalating battles between militias in the east and west, as well as the war on extremists in 2014.
The Tunisian government has taken serious steps immediately after the end of the joint business council until Tunisian carrier “Tunisair” resumes its flights to Tripoli as a first phase by the end of this month, pending expanding its flights to other Libyan cities. .
According to official statistics, more than 1.5 million Libyans travelled to Tunisia each year before the unrest in 2011, and their numbers have declined significantly in the past three years. The Tunisians were coming to Libya to work there before they stopped travelling because of the security situation.
The countries also look at another set of partnerships by promoting trade, developing the health sector and entering into new partnerships between Tunisian and Libyan investors to implement major construction projects in Libya as pivotal steps agreed upon by the two sides during the Joint Business Council for the Promotion of Economic Relations.
It seems important for the two countries at the moment to work hard on the level of Tunisian and Libyan businessmen to create a more flexible, more inclusive and participatory relationship that will make them an economic pole on both the Maghreb and African sides to give a new breath to joint investments in the future.
But the issue of strengthening health cooperation remains postponed until Libyan debts are settled in private Tunisian hospitals, although the Libyan Presidential Council last month gave a glimmer of hope to those hospitals when it pledged to pay its dues of about 200 million dinars (77.8 million dollars).
Libyan oil supplies will be at the heart of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) move, with Libya, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), seeking to boost crude exports to boost its revenues despite an agreement between OPEC and outside countries to cut supplies on world markets. 2014.
On the other hand, Tunisia will be the ideal for Libya, especially since Tunisia has been suffering for more than four years from a major energy deficit, and may resort to increasing prices again so that it can face the imbalances in finances.
The Libyan-Tunisian trade relations have undergone many historical stages, including what is codified within the official channels, including the secret through smuggling, which flourished on the border, in light of the unrest in Libya, which forced Tunisia to close its trade routes of Ras Jedir and Dhehiba, causing damage to two countries’ economies.
Official data and international reports have shown that the rampant phenomenon between the two neighbours has damaged the economies of the two countries very heavily since 2011, and there are slow government efforts in Tunisia to reduce them. In Libya, however, the internationally recognised Government of National Accord is far from controlling the situation.
The hoped-for model of the Tunisian-Libyan partnership will not be completed except through the activation of the previous 80 joint agreements as the main rule on which the new agreements between the two countries are supposed to be based, in order to complement the principle of economic integration which has not been achieved to this day in spite of the arduous attempts for many years.
TunisianMonitorOnline –MNHN (Translated from Al-Arab, article written by Riadh Bouazza)