Francophonie Summit amid political tensions

(Djerba, Tunisia) After a four-year hiatus, on the 18the The La Francophonie Summit opens amid political tension in the Tunisian city of Djerba after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to postpone the event to denounce President Kais Said’s regime.

Other voices also called for a postponement, including Louis Roy, the former secretary-general of the Intergovernmental Agency of La Francophonie, which became the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). In recent weeks, calls for a boycott of Canada and Quebec have also begun.

Prime Minister Francois Lego is due to land on the Tunisian island of Djerba on Friday. This is his first trip abroad since his re-election in October. He is accompanied by the new Minister of International Relations and Francophonie, Martine Biron. He is due to speak to the media later on Thursday.

“This is a success for [le président Saïed]. At least he avoided being humiliated,” said political scientist Sami Aun. Postponing such an event is always a “dilemma” for him.

“If you delay it to punish them or send a serious message about human rights, we risk not helping the democratization process on the other hand,” adds the School’s full professor. in applied politics from the university. Sherbrooke.

It was in this perspective that the Canadian government finally decided to participate in this high mass of La Francophonie. Mr. Trudeau wants to use his presence on Tunisian soil to emphasize “the importance of protecting democracy and human rights.”

After weeks of speculation, French President Emmanuel Macron has also been confirmed to attend. Canada and France are the two main donors to the AIF.

Press last August, Justin Trudeau announced that he was quietly campaigning with his French ally to demand a further postponement of the Summit, whose last edition was scheduled for 2018.

The biennial international event was postponed for the first time in 2020 due to the pandemic. It was also decided to hold the summit outside the capital of Tunisia, on the island of Djerba. But a month before the November 2021 meeting, members of the Permanent Council of La Francophonie approved a new postponement, citing the pandemic and the political crisis caused by the adopted changes that give more powers to Tunisian President Kais Said.

Mr. Said, who was democratically elected in 2019, seized all power in July 2021 on the grounds that the country had become ungovernable. Internal disputes are tearing the Tunisian people apart.

“Canada and other regulatory authorities […] worried that it will turn into a police state. And yet we see, for example, arbitrary arrests, travel bans on Tunisian politicians, suppression or intimidation of freedom of expression,” Mr. Aoun noted.

The Francophonie Summit, which is being held under the theme of “Connecting in Diversity” from November 19 to 20, also comes at a time when NATO member countries are on their feet after the rocket attacks in Poland that killed two people. The war in Ukraine will also be in the background of exchanges as the French-speaking partners look to strengthen their supply chains.

Quebec has a role to play


Aaron Bouazzi

For its part, Legault’s government has not yet expressed its views on the political situation in Tunisia. For Haroon Bouazzi, a new member of the Quebecois of Tunisian origin, the Prime Minister “cannot be limited to legitimizing a power in place” without intervention.

François Legault should use his presence and meetings with Tunisian dignitaries to “remind” the country of its obligations. Quebec is also recognized as a home state by the OIF, which unites the 88 provinces and governments of the French-speaking world on the planet.

“I think this is the most effective way for the government [de la Tunisie] don’t think he has a blank check for authoritarian excesses,” said the MP for Maurice-Richard. He said Quebec could work to strengthen economic cooperation as part of its mission objective, but “economic issues cannot be an excuse to turn a blind eye.”

In particular, François Legault should attend the Francophonie Economic Forum on Sunday, where he will speak.

The specific objectives of the Francophonie Charter, to which Tunisia adheres, are to help “establish and develop democracy” and “support the rule of law and human rights.”

A Trudeau-Legault meeting?

Francois Legault’s cabinet has not yet confirmed the holding of bilateral meetings that may be held within the framework of the Summit. After that, it is still unclear whether the meeting between Francois Legault and Justin Trudeau will take place.

If the interview script is approved, it will be a short meeting, Mr. Legault warned his cabinet. The two men are due to meet before the end of the year to decide the priorities of the Legault government, which was just re-elected by a landslide.

Quebec and Ottawa are already at loggerheads over immigration, with the Legault government demanding more powers that the Trudeau government has so far refused.

Quebec is also joining other Canadian provinces in demanding an increase in federal health care transfers. It seems that these two bones of contention will not be able to reach an agreement in the short term.

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