The European Union has repeatedly expressed its concern that the Southern Mediterranean Partner states (SMPs) should promote and protect human rights as defined by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and as recognised by those states in the Barcelona Declaration of 1995. Europe's concern is both normative, expressing a principled belief in the universal applicability of the human rights discourse, and pragmatic in so far as human rights and democracy are seen as necessary correlates of economic reform and development. In 1996 an Association Agreement came into effect linking Tunisia and Europe through a series of economic, security and political "baskets", or common agendas. Human rights and democratisation were seen by Europe to be a fundamental condition of economic assistance and the opening of European markets to Tunisian products. Yet, despite its own claims to have significantly advanced the human rights agenda in Tunisia, and to have introduced a level of political pluralism unseen since independence, the Tunisian regime has come under consistent attack from human rights organisations and even the EU itself for its own human rights abuses and for the increased centralisation of political power. This paper examines the accusations levelled against Tunisia, and the Tunisian regime's defence, through the lens of Tunisian political history. The case raises important questions for the EU in terms of the ambiguities and inconsistencies in its own policies and policy-making processes.
Murphy, E. (2001). 'Human Rights in Tunisia: Dilemmas for the European Union'. Mediterranean journal of human rights, 5, 199-224