ROME: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged Tunisian President Kais Saied to “re-establish promptly the constitutional order.”
The Italian premier spoke directly for the first time on Wednesday with the Tunisian president since July 25, when Saied froze the parliament, dismissed the prime minister and announced he will temporarily rule by decree. He also rescinded parliamentary immunity and issued a nationwide curfew for 30 days.
Last week, members of the Tunisian government, including the foreign minister, were expected in Rome for talks, but their visit was canceled at the last moment.
Since political turmoil broke in Tunisia, the arrival of migrants to the tiny island of Lampedusa has significantly increased, and Italian security forces expect that their number could reach up to 20,000 in a few weeks if the country does not achieve stability.
In a long telephone call, described to Arab News as “cordial but firm” by a source in Draghi’s office, the Italian prime minister reassured Saied that the “assistance and support that Italy has offered to Tunisia will continue.”
Italy has made good on this offer, delivering 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Tunisia last Sunday to help the country to fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Twenty-five tons of health equipment, including ventilators, protective masks, gloves, surgical gowns and sanitizing gel, were also provided by the Italian government to Tunisia in the past few weeks.
Draghi, it is understood, asked Saied for “more cooperation” in the management of migration flows.
In a press event attended by Arab News, Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni said that Italy, along with other EU nations, is “very concerned” about the current crisis in Tunisia, a country with which it shares “a long friendship and historical ties.”
“COVID, the stagnant economy and the difficulty in carrying out economic and social reforms have fueled the discontent of the population. In this situation, we all hope that the country will go back to normal soon, that the constitution will be respected and the functionality of the Parliament is restored,” she added.
Concerning the issue of migration, Sereni said that Italian Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese “is following the situation of instability and difficulty in Tunisia as well as that of Libya.”
In this regard, she said it was understood that people whose lives were in danger “must be saved” and called on Europe to take on not only the rescue operations but also the redistribution of those who land on Italian coasts.