Tunisia is no stranger to us. It is so closely linked to the history of France, Italy and the whole of Europe that we have the same duties towards it as towards a sister or a brother.

Before having initiated the Arab Spring of 2011, Tunisia had been able to negotiate its independence without resentment or violence. Habib Bourguiba, its liberator, then took it upon himself to give Tunisian women the most liberal status in the Arab world and to allow a powerful trade union centre to take root, which has always been a factor of social and political balance.

So close to our shores, so close to our hearts, Tunisia could be one of us, and that is why we must speak loudly and truthfully to the man who is so quickly turning the clock back.

We must tell Mr Saied that our assistance budget is not intended to crush the independence of the judiciary but to strengthen it. We must tell him that there are too many dictatorships on earth for him to create a new one and that we love Tunisia too much to resign ourselves to this situation.

Commissioner, Minister, my dear colleagues, we have to call a spade a spade, and Mr Saied a man with whom we will not do business, because he is leading his people into disaster and destabilising the two shores of the Mare Nostrum even more.

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