tunisia aims for reform and free elections
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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William Hague writes for Arabstoday

Tunisia aims for reform and free elections

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Tunisia aims for reform and free elections

William Hague,  UK  Foreign Secretary
 William Hague - Arabstoday

William Hague,  UK  Foreign Secretary  William Hague - Arabstoday This week I visited Tunisia to show Britain's support for the remarkable democratic change that has begun and to offer practical assistance to the people and government of Tunisia. I met young Tunisians whose enthusiasm and sense of hope for the future was infectious and inspiring. They told me what it felt like to be able, for the first time in their lives, to speak freely to their friends about politics, to see politicians debating policies on their television screens, and to express their own views about the future of their country. These are freedoms that we take for granted in the UK but which were unthinkable in Tunisia only a few weeks ago. I met Prime Minister Ghannouchi and other members of the interim government who spoke candidly about their responsibility to begin reform and prepare for the first free elections in Tunisia's history, while grappling with serious economic problems which are holding back the country's potential and blighting many lives.
I was told in all these meetings that the people of Tunisia need the support of Britain and other countries to continue down the path of reform, to ensure that the changes that have taken place are irreversible, and to keep hope alive despite the challenges facing the country.
In Britain we are ready to offer this help.
We have launched a new Arab Partnership Fund to help support civil society, human rights and political participation. We want to extend this help to all our partners in the region over time, but see projects in Tunisia as a clear early priority for this work. As one of the oldest democracies in the world Britain has a wealth of experience and technical expertise in education, justice and the rule of law that we are more than happy to share.
And encouraged by what I have seen on this trip I will urge the European Union as well as international bodies like the World Bank to offer real practical support to Tunisia. All my discussions with European partners suggest that there is real appetite to support Tunisia in this way, and I will certainly play my part in intensifying those discussions over the coming months as well as exploring what Britain can do on its own.
The interim government has made welcome moves to sign up to international conventions on human rights and to begin a process of constitutional change. This progress must continue and must be deepened, so that change is irrevocable and the opportunity for reform is not squandered.
If this is done, and if the talent and energy of the young people I met is unleashed into the politics and economic life of Tunisia, and if it backed by sensible reforms that allow commerce to flourish and democratic values to be entrenched, then the future of your country stands to be very bright indeed.
It will also create the possibility of the transformed relationship between Britain and Tunisia and Tunisia and Europe as a whole that we all wish to see and would all benefit from.
In the past Britain's relations with Tunisia have been based on common interests. Those interests remain, but we now have an immense opportunity to make this a deeper and more rewarding relationship based on values, if Tunisia continues to move boldly down the path that its people have chosen.
The opportunity for greater economic development and more open political systems is  present in differing degrees in some other countries in the region. We hope governments will seize these opportunities as they present themselves, and look forward to working with them as

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