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On 25 April 1976, just forty years ago, the European Economic Community and the Republic of Tunisia signed their first cooperation agreement. Since then our bilateral relations have gradually grown stronger, reflecting the historical, economic, human and cultural ties that have united us since antiquity.
In forty years both Europe and Tunisia have experienced remarkable changes: the EU has enlarged and built itself up on a project of peace anchored in the values of democracy and freedom; Tunisia has developed a unique model that combines its African, Arab and Muslim legacy and a vision that draws in particular on education and the empowerment of women. Above all, the women and men of Tunisia have taken control of their destiny through the revolution of 2011 and by pursuing, in a fragile regional context, a transition to democracy, human rights, and social justice.
Our privileged partnership, which was concluded in 2012, reflects Tunisia's exceptional status in the EU Neighbourhood. An exception in its democratic transition, which the EU has supported since the beginning, and also in its ambition, which we share, to deepen and intensify our relations in all fields: political, economic, social, security, cultural, educational and scientific.
As was confirmed by the EU-Tunisia Association Council held in Luxembourg on 18 April, our common wish is to further strengthen this already very ambitious privileged partnership. For us Europeans, it is the obvious way forward in view of the unique role that Tunisia plays in our neighbourhood, that of a country with which we share the ideals of democracy and human progress, and which has chosen a close partnership with the EU as its inspiration. It is also a necessary one if we are to address our collective challenges, in particular economic, security and migration challenges, which we can tackle only together.
The year 2015 showed the potential of our relations with a significant stepping up of relations at political level and in several key areas of our cooperation, including the opening of negotiations to achieve genuine economic and trade integration, enhanced security cooperation, closer links between our scientific communities and increased financial assistance.
We reiterate today the EU’s unwavering support for the Tunisian transition and our determination to improve the resources accorded to this support still further. We are determined to do even better, in close collaboration with the Tunisian government and with the wide involvement of civil society, so that the contribution of the EU and its Member States translates into concrete changes responding to the aspirations of Tunisians.
On the occasion of this anniversary, the EU is proud of its privileged partnership with the Tunisian people and hopes to further strengthen it in order to offer our young people better prospects for the future.