On Wednesday, 02.10.2019, The Warsaw Institute Review (WIR) had the honour to have held another addition to its initiative titled “Strategy Duologues on Geopolitics”. The meeting, or as colloquially referred to in short, “Strategy Duologue”, or simply “Duologue”, took place at the Embassy of the Tunisian Republic in Warsaw.
Strategy Duologues are small meetings between representatives of WIR and representatives of Embassies which are pertinent to Poland and her partners. In these meetings, participants discuss geopolitical developments which are relevant to both their countries, the bilateral relations between these countries, and finally, exploring means of cooperation on the think-tank/quarterly and Embassy levels to further enhance ties between the two countries and regions.
These aim to include Embassies of foreign missions in Warsaw, Embassies of Poland in capitals of other countries as well as accredited Embassies. Thus far, previous Strategy Duologues include with the Embassies of Romania, Australia, Indonesia, Armenia in Warsaw as well as with the Embassy of Poland in Canberra, Australia.
Hence, the Strategy Duologue with the Embassy of the Tunisian Republic in Warsaw was the sixth Duologue in this initiative, and the first with an Embassy of a country in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. The session was held in a roughly even mix of French, Arabic (Modern Standard mostly, with hints of the Tunisian dialect of course), and English.
In Strategy Duologues, both sides discuss previously agreed upon topics pertinent to geopolitics and ‘geostrategic’ themes. They examine in which ways the understanding is similar or different from the perspective of the Embassy and from the perspective of think-tanks/quarterlies in general, and of course, specifically that of WIR.
Leading the discussion from the side of the Embassy was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Tunisian Republic to the Republic of Poland H.E. Mr. Sghaier Fatnassi. Representing WIR were Advisor Mr Alexander Wielgos and Communications Specialist Mr. Łukasz Biernacki.
Kicking things off, the first topic was the political situation in Tunisia since December 2010 with the turn of events beginning then, and proceeded to discuss political dynamics within Tunisia in most recent years, in the election cycles, and security matters.
The events in Tunisia were the first, where the protests spread to other neighbouring countries in the MENA region, in what came to be known as the Arab Spring. Tunisia is the only case in the MENA region in which the country, having previously been a dictatorship, transformed into a healthy democracy, albeit with its uphill struggles as all democracies are to lesser and greater extents.
More academic perspectives, from the side, point to core attributes that Tunisia is largely ethno-religiously homogenous, its population and country area considerably smaller than most others, as well as having a sizeably smaller military force.
However, the side of the Embassy pointed to other attributes, mainly that there is a prominent history of reform in Tunisia. Moreover, although Tunisia under Ben Ali was a dictatorship, it had the fortune of having been still more relatively open for thought debate and had relatively higher successes in secular education systems nationwide.
It is determined to succeed in this to demonstrate to its partners as well as to the rest of the world that democracy is taking root and is now irreversible, having overcome political crises such as that of 2013-2014.
It is worth noting, that Tunisia is entering a new important period on the road to democratic transition with the holding of the presidential and legislative elections soon, the fourth election since 2011.
These factors naturally are affected by the conundrums which are the geopolitical dynamics of the MENA, Mediterranean Sea, and by extension, European region. A key point is the stability of neighbouring Libya, whose civil war has become internationalised since the NATO intervention and has since drawn in about 12 countries from not just the region but from global actors as well. Also, a key point are relations with Morocco and Algeria.
Building on from the already in place EU-Tunisia Association Agreement, on 13.10.2015, negotiations pertaining to a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the EU and Tunisia were launched.
This year, Tunisia and Poland celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations. Economic cooperation between the two countries is developing with productive exchanges of trade missions, trade agreements and investments.
In addition, there is growth in the tourism sector, thousands of Polish tourists choose each year Tunisia as a preferred destination for their holidays with 26 weekly charter flights. More than 80 000 Polish tourists visited Tunisia by the end of September 2019.
Then, the final part of the Strategy Duologue pertained to exploring possibilities for cooperation in the future.
It is worth noting, Tunisia currently offers promising investment opportunities in the public and private sectors and in priority areas such as infrastructure, industry, energy, ICT and a green economy. More than 6,600 Tunisian and foreign exporting companies operate in various economic fields.
The new Investment Law of 2017 to promote freedom of investment and to protect domestic and foreign investors, the Law on Partnerships public-private and the law on banking reform and fiscal policies.
Cooperation between Poland and Tunisia, between think tank/quarterly and various levels, serves important roles in bettering strategic ties, understanding of geopolitical developments, as well as amiability, respect and appreciation between countries and their peoples.
Tip: the phrase “In sha’ Allah” in Arabic means “If it is the will of God”, and is used commonly in Arabic speaking and Muslim-majority countries as an expression saying that one is more hopeful, or less hopeful, that something is to occur, depending on the tone and context.