Tunisia Weekly Update: Chahed Appoints New Cabinet Members

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Chahed Appoints New Cabinet Members

Tunisian Officials Optimistic in Fight on Terror

Tunisia Elected to UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances

Essebsi Calls for GCC Crisis Resolution

Domestic News

Chahed Appoints New Cabinet Members: In a statement [Ar] published on June 22, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced a reshuffle of his Cabinet, appointing three new members, including Ridha Chalghoum as Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, Hedi Mekni as Secretary General of the Government, and Ahmed Zarrouk as Adviser to the Prime Minister for Public Service, Governance, and Administrative Reform. Many sources have emphasized [Fr] the previous experience of these individuals in government. For instance, Chalghoum was the economic advisor to President Beji Caid Essebsi in Carthage before joining Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s team. Reports indicated that these changes may only be the first in a series of planned changes that Chahed intends to make within his cabinet.

PayPal’s Tunisian Launch Cancelled: The Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy announced on June 23 that e-payment company PayPal refused [Fr] the Tunisian government’s request for access to its services. This refusal comes despite the announcement [Fr] of Minister Anouar Maarouf in mid-May that negotiations were on track and could possibly lead to the launch of the service inTunisia in June 2017. PayPal’s introduction in Tunisia was considered a key part of implementing theTunisia Digital 2020 initiative.

The initiative [Fr] for the use of PayPal in Tunisia was led by Noomene Fehri when he was Minister of Communication Technologies and the Digital Economy in March 2016. While Paypal demands total freedom for its financial operations on its various accounts throughout the world, the Central Bank ofTunisia refused this stipulation. Tunisian law prohibits the transfer of foreign currency to bank accounts abroad. On March 14, the Central Bank of Tunisia announced [Fr] that while it has no objections toTunisian PayPal users sending and receiving electronic funds in foreign currency, restrictive bank policies prohibit the opening of foreign bank accounts by Tunisian residents.

Communication Minister Anouar Maarouf will hold a press conference next week to discuss the reasons for the refusal and the details of this file. It appears that negotiations have ceased on this matter for now.

Tunisian Officials Optimistic in Fight on Terror: Defense Minister Farhat Horchani released a statement on June 23 that “the eradication of the scourge of terrorism in Tunisia is in its final stages.” Horchani emphasized the Tunisian army’s “crucial” role in defeating terrorism and explained that the Tunisian army is “an exception” by virtue of its separation from the political sphere. During an Eid address on June 25, President Beji Caid Essebsi emphasized that “Ramadan this year had gone well in Tunisia both at the security and economic levels,” and commended “the efforts of security and military forces who have been accumulating success in their war against the cowardly terrorism.”

This statement fell on the same day as a confrontation between a military patrol and armed individuals in the border zone of Ben Guerdane in southern Tunisia near the Libyan border. Two were arrested and a vehicle was forced to turn back to the Libyan territory. Also in Ben Guerdane, National Guard units succeeded [Fr] in arresting an alleged militant classified as dangerous in the Shahbaniya region on June 24. Another reported militant was arrested [Fr] on June 25 by National Guard units in the area of Bir Mcharga in Zaghouan. The insurgent, classified as dangerous, was previously linked to a terrorist organization in Syria.

Supreme Judicial Council Outlines Elections Role: On June 22, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed met with the interim president of the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM), Hatem Ben Khalifa, to discuss the upcoming municipal elections. Ben Khalifa presented Chahed with a plan to create a steering committee composed of the Prime Ministry, the Administrative Court, the Ministry of Finance, and the Secretary of State for State Property to facilitate administrative justice in the regions. This administrative justice would serve to examine electoral conflicts and the candidacy for the municipal elections scheduled for the end of 2017.

Following this consultation, four new CSM members were sworn in before the President on June 23: Tarek Chkioua as Attorney General for the Court of Cassation, Ahmed Hafi as President of the Land Court, Mohamed Trabelsi as Chamber Advisor, and Fayçal Manias Advisor to the Court of Auditors.

Efforts Launched to Increase Transparency in Extractive Industries: On June 22, Minister of Energy Héla Cheikhrouhou announced the creation of a working group to improve transparency and governance in the extractive mining industries. This group, composed of representatives of the government, businesses (public and private), and civil society, would publish reports studying the different industries of oil and gas sub-sector, the phosphate sub-sector, and any other mining sector. These reports would verify transparency, studying the balance between the payments companies made to the government and the revenue of the government.

Foreign Affairs

Tunisia Elected to UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances: On June 20, Tunisia was elected as a member of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances for the 2017-2019 period, alongside Japan, Morocco, Serbia, and Argentina. Moncef Baati, the Tunisian candidate, garnered 50 votes out of 55. According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement, “The election of Tunisia confirms the good reputation it enjoys with the international community and its permanent concern to consolidate and safeguard human rights especially after its election as a member of the Human Rights Council of the UN.” The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances was established following the International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which was adopted by Tunisia in 2011.

Fulbright Program Launched: On June 21, the U.S.  Embassy in Tunisia announced the availability of 15 State Department funded scholarships for the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship Program (FLTA). The program would allow Tunisian educators to teach Arabic at universities while taking training courses. This announcement arrives soon after the release of the FY18 Department of State budget request, which seeks a 47 percent cut to the Fulbright Program’s budget.

Essebsi Calls for Resolution of Qatar Crisis: During a June 25 Eid prayer in Carthage, President Beji Caid Essebsi wished [Fr] a happy holiday to all Tunisians and “especially to our fellow citizens living in the Gulf countries.” President Essebsi asserted, “We have confidence in the countries of the Gulf to go through this crisis, which I hope is temporary […] Whatever the cause, it is a dispute within the Arab-Muslim community.” He emphasized that the crisis will have to be resolved “with dialogue.” The President called the current crisis a “conflict between members of the same family” that must be resolved, opting for a neutral stance.

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