Channelled Policy Transfers: EU-Tunisia Interactions on Migration Matters

In: European Journal of Migration and Law
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  • 1 Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Via delle Fontanelle 19, I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy

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This study analyses how the migration policy options of the Government of Tunisia have been codified by repeated interactions with the European Union (eu) and its Member States. It argues that these interactions have been shaped by the gradual consolidation of a hierarchy of priorities where the drive for operability and security predominates. A hierarchy of priorities delineates the contours of the perceived top priorities that should be tackled first and foremost, while hiding or dismissing others. Having historicized the origins of this hierarchy, the study sets out to show that the prioritization of security concerns in bilateral and multilateral migration talks allowed the leadership of former President Ben Ali to skilfully readjust or channel transferred rules and policies on migration matters with a view to strengthening its own domination. This had serious implications for human rights observance in Tunisia. Today, after (or despite) the radical transformations that took place in Tunisia in early 2011, the same hierarchy of priorities continues to exist. However, its resilience may raise a host of complicated issues, given the empowered advocacy role of civil society organizations and the manifest alertness of Tunisian population.

  • 2

    A. Klekowski von Koppenfels (2001), The Role of Regional Consultative Processes in Managing International Migration. Migration Research Series 3, Geneva: iom; R. Hansen (2010), An Assessment of Principal Regional Consultative Processes on Migration. Migration Research Series 38, Geneva: iom.

  • 3

    J. Widgren (1994), Multilateral Co-operation to Combat Trafficking in Migrants and the Role of International Organizations. iom 11th Seminar on Migration, Geneva: iom, p. 10.

  • 4

    E. Bernays (2011) [1923], Crystallizing Public Opinion, New York, ny: Ig Publishing, p. 92.

  • 8

    European Council (1998), Strategy Paper on Immigration and Asylum Policy. 9809/98, 1 July 1998, Brussels.

  • 10

    J.-P. Cassarino (2012), Reversing the Hierarchy of Priorities in EU-Mediterranean Relations, In: J. Peters (ed.), The European Union and the Arab Spring: Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in the Middle East, New York, ny: Lexington Books, pp. 7–9.

  • 16

    S. Ben Achour and M. Ben Jemia (2011), Révolution tunisienne et migration clandestine vers l’Europe: réactions européennes et tunisiennes. carim as, n°65, RSCAS/EUI, p. 15.

  • 17

    Author’s translation. H. Meddeb (2012), Courir ou Mourir: Course à el Khobza et domination au quotidien dans la Tunisie de Ben Ali. PhD Thesis, Paris: Institut d’Etudes Politiques, p. 389, available online at (retrieved on 7 November 2013).

  • 18

    M. Camau and V. Geisser (2003), Le syndrome autoritaire : politique en Tunisie de Bourguiba à Ben Ali. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po. See also Hibou (2011) [2006]; E.R. Bellin (2002), Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development. Ithaca, ny: Cornell University Press.

  • 21

    O. Lamloum (1999), Janvier 1984 en Tunisie ou le symbole d’une transition, In: D. Le Saout and M. Rollinde (eds), Emeutes et mouvements sociaux au Maghreb. Paris: Karthala, pp. 96–104. See also V. Geisser and E. Gobe (2006), Des fissures dans la ‘Maison Tunisie’? Le régime Ben Ali face aux mobilisations protestataires. L’Année du Maghreb, Année 2005, pp. 353–414; Camau and Geisser (2003).

  • 24

    On the advanced status see K. Kausch, ‘EU Incentives Contributing to New Repression’, IPRIS Maghreb Review (2010) 1–2.

  • 29

    During the 1990s, in a regional context marked by rising violence and guerrilla conflict in Algeria, and later, in a global context marked by the 2001 War on Terror.

  • 32

    In early 2011, more than 22 000 Tunisian nationals arrived on vessels of fortune on the island of Lampedusa. Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi made an official visit to Tunisia on 4 April 2011 to meet the head of the Tunisian interim government, Beji Caïd Essebsi.

  • 33

    See the Tunisian newspaper Le Temps (2011), Pas d’accord entre Berlusconi et Caïd Essebsi sur les immigrés de Lampedusa. Mésentente ‘cordiale’?, 5 April 2011, available online at (retrieved on 7 November 2013).

  • 35

    European Commission (2011), Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, com(2011) 743 final, 18 November 2011, Brussels.

  • 36

    R. Axelrod (1984), The Evolution of Cooperation, New York, ny: Basic Books, p. 141.

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