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French Communist Leader: “Tunisians need real solidarity, true cooperation”

Translated Thursday 27 January 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Communist deputy Marie-George Buffet, who will take part in the demonstration in support of the Tunisian people on Jan. 15, calls for building a completely different relationship with Tunisia.

What is your reaction to the arrest yesterday morning of Hamma Hammami of the Tunisian Workers Communist Party?

Marie-George Buffet: Hamma Hammami had come out of the underground a few weeks ago. I’ve just spoken on the phone with a person close to him. He was arrested very violently and in the presence of a child. Ben Ali makes declarations about creating jobs, the withdrawal of the Interior Minister, and replacing the police in the streets with the army, but the repression is sharpening.

How do you explain the weakness with which France and the European Union are reacting?

Marie-George Buffet: This confirms the soft attitude to the Ben Ali regime that has gone on for years. On Tuesday, our colleague, Jean-Paul Lecoq of the French Communist Party (PCF), a member of the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly, tabled a question to the government, in the name of the Republic and Democratic Left (GDR) fraction, in which he asked the government to take full account of the gravity of the situation and to act. We got a truly astonishing response from the Foreign Affairs Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, which explained that the government is offering “that the know-how of our security forces, which is recognized around the world, be allowed to resolve security situations of this type.” She added: “We are offering /…/ to permit, in the framework of cooperation, to act /…/ so that the right to demonstrate will be assured as well as security.” This blindness is explained by the trade relations, the migrant policy, and tourist relations. Many French personalities have also had the opportunity to have, shall we way, somewhat privileged relations with Tunisia.

What can progressives and governments do to help the opposition?

Marie-George Buffet: The progressives can make known what is happening in Tunisia by participating massively in the demonstration on Saturday. All of the elected officials can, as Jean-Paul Lecoq did in Parliament, question the government. It is not a question of giving lessons to the Algerian or Tunisian people. They need real solidarity, true cooperation, a mobilization so that they can decide themselves on the choices that will prevail in their countries. We have the means to put pressure on the Tunisian authorities. There is a privileged accord between the European Union and Tunisia, subject to conditions. Why doesn’t the EU demand an immediate halt to all forms of repression?

Tunisia is the first country on the south shore of the Mediterranean to have a free trade zone with the European Union. What are the consequences of that for the Tunisians?

Marie-George Buffet: The reality in Tunisia is that some people are getting rich. These accords benefit the Ben Ali oligarchy above all. There is massive youth unemployment and a fall in purchasing power. That is why there is a need for real cooperation with reciprocal requirements. We must not give lessons, because you have to look at what is going on in the European Union. Setting up a free trade zone does not solve the problems of the French people or the Irish. It does not solve the problems of the Tunisian people.

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