Monica Marks on Tunisia: Wake up EU+US, it’s the cops stupid…
Monica Marks, co-director of our upcoming Tunis Exchange as well, has an absolutely crucial piece on Tunisia that needs to be considered well beyond the mainly EU audience for ECFR pieces.
My only comment would be on the need to radically expand on the policy ideas – to provoke a more open and unbounded conversation about “what to do”: If corruption is indeed the heart of the problem in Tunisia (“its the cops stupid” as I would put it, which is meant to broadly mean the triangle of real power here, the cops, mafia and some business elites), and not primarily radicalization, beards and ISIS threats etc, how could Croatia style anti corruption committees actually work? What are the Hard Power means to break the parallel state?
Sousse attacker wanted to dance; cops made sure that didn’t happen:
One report on Seifeddine Rezgui, the 21-year-old who carried out the Sousse attack in June 2015, powerfully highlights this correlation. The report quotes an old friend of Rezgui’s who describes how he and Rezgui used to breakdance inside an abandoned church that functioned as their town’s “maison de la culture”. Kicked out of that space, they and other friends then transferred to an open-air location in town, until the police built a wall to stop them getting in.
As the friend said: In this country, you want to dance, you cannot! … Look what happened to a young person like Seifeddine. I never want to stay in this country, it destroys you. You’re studying? You don’t have a future. You work? The salary isn’t enough. You steal? You’re going to jail. You want to marry? You can’t – not enough money
“Yet development assistance alone will not be enough to safeguard Tunisia’s path to democracy. Recent terror attacks have fuelled resistance to institutional reform, feeding the narrative that the imperative of security trumps the need for accountable and representative government. The failure to reform the economy
or tackle police corruption in turn breeds insecurity, as alienated young people are vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. To break this cycle, Tunisia’s international partners should make clear that security is inseparable from good governance, and focus on mapping the key bureaucratic obstacles to reform.
“In foreign policy circles, citizen-oriented initiatives that promote accountability, respect for human rights, and grassroots development are often subtly branded as well-meaning but ultimately secondary goals – lagging behind supposedly higher priorities like national security and defence. Making government more transparent, accessible, and inclusive, however, could dramatically improve
citizen-state relations, rendering it more difficult for would-be terrorists to infiltrate disadvantaged communities.
Tunisia’s international partners should encourage much-needed citizen- oriented reforms. They should promote measures to address corruption and lack of accountability, perhaps by taking cues from countries such as Croatia that have established successful anti-corruption committees. 15
Another priority should be to scrap rights-restricting laws from the Ben Ali era to correspond with Tunisia’s new constitution, overhaul the unclear and inefficient investment codes, and reform the bureaucratic public administration. Achieving these institutional reforms may not be easy – especially in areas where problems
have come to be seen as “cultural” (for example, the culture of corruption, of impunity, and of bureaucratic inefficiency) – but they are essential to stabilise
Tunisia’s tumultuous transition. The greatest contribution that outside partners like the EU and its member states can make to democratic consolidation and stability in Tunisia lies not in providing further financial aid, but in supporting and incentivising effective