The incoming US ambassador to Tunisia calls for a return to democracy

US diplomat Joey R. Hood, appointed US Ambassador to Tunisia by President Joe Biden, spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

In his testimony, Joey R. Hood said: ” My top priority as ambassador would be the safety and security of Americans living in and visiting Tunisia. My second priority would be to help put Tunisia on a more stable and prosperous path.

A longtime partner of the United States and a major non-NATO ally, Tunisia is now suffering the global consequences of Putin’s brutal aggression in Ukraine, including rising food prices, insecurity and soaring energy prices. Putin’s war has worsened Tunisia’s economic crisis. Urgent action is therefore needed to reverse this trajectory.

I would like to promote a vision of inclusive and open economic growth. The government is in the process of negotiating an agreement with the IMF, which could be a step towards reforms that will benefit all Tunisians. Tunisia could also improve its investments in the environmental sector by focusing on infrastructure and safe technology. I will be in favor of American companies contributing.

As Tunisians grapple with these economic challenges, they have faced an alarming situation following the deterioration of democratic standards and fundamental freedoms over the past year, reversing many hard-won gains since the overthrow of the dictatorship in 2011.

President Kais Saied’s actions over the past year, suspending democratic governance and consolidating executive power, have raised serious questions. The United States, alone and in coordination with its G7 partners, has advocated a rapid return to democratic governance.

We advocated an inclusive approach, a democratic reform process, we emphasized the continued protection of fundamental freedoms while insisting on respect for the independence of justice and the rule of law. I will continue this commitment and I will call on the Tunisian leaders to quickly restore a democratic government accountable to their people.

The Tunisians have made it clear that their demands for greater economic prosperity must not come at the expense of democracy or human rights. I agree with this and support the administration’s view that bilateral relations between the United States and Tunisia are stronger when there is a shared commitment to democracy, values, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

We continue to review our aid programs to ensure they are consistent with our policy goals and values, while maintaining our partnership and our long-term progress achieved through our past assistance to Tunisia. I would use every tool of American influence to advocate for a return to democratic governance and alleviate the suffering of Tunisians as a result of devastating war, economic mismanagement and political upheaval.

The recognition by Tunisian leaders that a vibrant civil society is a partner, not an adversary, has been a key reason for its democratic success. Civil society has shown dynamism and resilience, representing the goals and demands of the Tunisian people.

I will continue to support civil society and engage regularly with government to protect fundamental freedoms. I also request that the political reforms and legislative elections announced at the end of this year are transparent and inclusive.

In the midst of this political upheaval, I understand that the Tunisian military has remained apolitical and a professional force that reports to the civilian leadership. I will work to maintain that and seek new avenues for cooperation on US security priorities, particularly against global terrorist threats, while further strengthening the protection of human rights.

The normalization of relations with Israel, including through the historic Abraham Accords, has resulted in greater peace and security in the region and deepened opportunities for expanding economic growth and productivity. I will support further efforts to normalize diplomatic and economic relations with the State of Israel in the region. “.

SH

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