UK members hail bilateral relations in virtual exchange with Tunisian counterparts
On 3 November 2020, BGIPU convened a virtual bilateral meeting between UK and Tunisian Parliamentarians. The discussion was moderated by BGIPU Executive Committee Member, Damien Moore MP, who is also the Trade Envoy to Tunisia and chairs the Tunisia APPG in the UK Parliament. The meeting was attended by Afzal Khan MP, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Uddin, and Lord McNally. On the Tunisian side, BGIPU were pleased to welcome Ms Samah Damek, Mr Mohamed Karim Krifa, Ms Nesrine Amari, Mr Jalel Zayati, Mr Zied Hachmi, and Ms Afaef Talbi. The Ambassadors of both countries, HE Edward Oakden CMG and HE Nabil Ben Khedher, also attended this high-level discussion.
The opening remarks were made by Damien Moore MP who warmly welcomed the Tunisian MPs to the meeting. He talked about the overwhelming enthusiasm on both sides to enhance bilateral exchanges. Mr Moore subsequently gave the floor to the Ambassadors to begin the discussion. HE Nabil Ben Khedher spoke about the importance of the two friendship groups and his ambition for the future of this relationship. HE Edward Oakden, who only took up the appointment as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Tunisian Republic in October 2020, spoke about the importance of resilience in matters relating to politics, economies and security.
It has been a decade since events in Tunisia created a mass anti-government uprising, with dissatisfaction and dissent the movement spreading to other Arabic countries in what became known as “the Arab Spring”. Tunisia has made positive steps to reform itself in the last ten years which was evident in the meeting by the equal number of male and female parliamentarians from Tunisia attending and the strong representation of young MPs. The Inter-Parliamentary Union strongly supports gender equality and young MPs, putting mechanism in place to empower them, in order to ensure real representation of demographics in parliaments.
The meeting was very timely as both countries tackle their respective health and social challenges created by the COVID-19 global pandemic and its broader economic impacts. It was also a reminder of the importance of inter-parliamentary dialogue and bilateral collaboration regardless of restrictions on international travel and a temporary suspension of parliamentary exchange visits.
During the course of the exchange, parliamentarians hailed the importance of the UK and Tunisian relationship and the need for collaboration at a time of such difficult global challenges. Participants agreed both countries have much to offer the each other and engagement such as this exchange would help will ensure long-lasting and mutually beneficial relations. Attendees expressed interest in another bilateral virtual exchange in the near future and, when international travel is possible, the Tunisian side kindly invited a delegation of UK Members to visit their parliament.