Steinmeier urges reforms in North Africa

17th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

17 November 2006, Algiers (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on a visit to Tunisia Thursday urged political reforms in the north African country while lauding progress towards social and economic reforms. "From a European point of view, naturally we would like more to happen in the area of political participation," Steinmeier said at a function he attended with Higher Education Minister Lazhar Bououny in the capital Tunis. Germany and the European Union would support Tunisia on the pat

17 November 2006

Algiers (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on a visit to Tunisia Thursday urged political reforms in the north African country while lauding progress towards social and economic reforms.

"From a European point of view, naturally we would like more to happen in the area of political participation," Steinmeier said at a function he attended with Higher Education Minister Lazhar Bououny in the capital Tunis.

Germany and the European Union would support Tunisia on the path to further reforms, he said.

The country of 10 million inhabitants has been ruled by patriarchal President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali for nearly 20 years.

Amnesty International in its 2006 report on Tunisia cited the torture and maltreatment of prisoners, as well as unfair trials leading to long sentences.

Steinmeier pointed to the "close and long-running partnership" between Germany and Tunisia, a country particularly popular with German tourists.

German tourist arrivals have, however, almost halved since the terrorist attack on the island of Djerba in April 2002, which killed eight Germans.

From about 1 million annually before the attacks, arrivals had fallen to 570,000 in 2005.

Tunisia's higher education minister spoke for closer cooperation with Germany in the areas of research and education, including exchanges at the university level.

Steinmeier is on a five-day North African tour, which took him Libya on Wednesday and Algeria earlier Thursday.

In Algeria, Steinmeier met with Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem and Energy Minister Chekib Khalil as well as with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with whom the German envoy held four hours of talks. mainly focusing on energy issues and economic cooperation

Germany and Algeria are to increase bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, particularly in the field of natural gas production and supply, it was agreed, with German utility Eon signing a declaration of intent with Algerian state energy company Sonatrach on long-term provision of liquid natural gas (LNG)

"We value Algeria as a reliable energy provider," said Steinmeier, who said the agreement would dynamically contribute to German- Algerian economic ties. An Eon company spokesman spoke of the "first important steps" between the Germany energy giant and Sonatrach, which currently supplies 26 billion cubic metres of gas annually with a target of 85 billion cubic metres per year by 2020.

Germany currently sources its entire supply of natural gas via pipeline connections and is seeking to secure more supplies of LNG. German firms are meanwhile hoping to secure contracts under planned Algerian infrastructure projects estimated to be worth around 80 billion dollars until 2009.

Thursday's agreement follows a deal the previous day under which Algeria agreed to repay its debt to Germany in full, five years earlier than expected and largely thanks to high revenue intake from its abundant natural resources.

Algeria is a major energy supplier to Europe and is also the world's 11th largest oil producer and fourth largest natural gas producer. The revenue from those energy sales - estimated at more than $50 billion for 2006 - has allowed Algeria to settle its debt with a number of creditors. Germany is the country's fourth- largest creditor.

On Friday, Steinmeier continues on to Morocco, and from there to Mauritania on Saturday. He is using the trip to convey Germany's priorities vis-a-vis North Africa during its six-month presidency of the EU, beginning in January.

DPA

Subject: German news

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