Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has held a meeting with two members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, winners of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She stressed the importance of civil society for democracy.
Sommaruga met Abdessattar ben Moussa, president of The Tunisian Human Rights League, and Fadhel Mahfoudh, president of The Tunisian Order of Lawyers, in Bern on Friday.
The minister praised the decisive contribution of the Quartet to the democratic transition in Tunisia, stressing the central role of civil society, her department said in a statement.
The award of the Nobel Prize to the Quartet, which also includes the Tunisian General Labour Union and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), took many people by surprise in 2015. The Tunisian national dialogue quartet is a coalition of civil society groups that came together in the summer of 2013 when Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring, was at a crossroads between democracy and violence.
The quartet drew up a plan of action, or roadmap, to steer Tunisia away from the path to conflict and towards political compromise. The launch of a national dialogue process with all political parties helped resolve the political crisis and lead to the adoption of a new constitution.
During his visit to Switzerland in February this year, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi told swissinfo.ch he was counting on Switzerland’s system of direct democracy to help his nation complete the journey it set out on as the only democracy to rise from the Arab Spring protest movement five years ago.
The statement on Friday said Switzerland would continue its commitment to Tunisia and support the country during this transitional period. Switzerland’s cooperation programmes help towards consolidating democratic structures, and protecting human rights and economic development, in particular through the creation of jobs.
Switzerland was one of the first countries to launch a development assistance programme for Tunisia after the turbulent demonstrations in January 2011.
Switzerland and Tunisia have an agreement, which went into effect in August 2014, according to which they will work together to combat irregular migration, promote socioeconomic development and more quickly repatriate Tunisians whose requests for asylum in Switzerland are not successful.
Switzerland is accepting 150 Tunisian interns a year between the ages of 18 and 35 who can work in Swiss companies and businesses for a maximum of 18 months. It has concluded similar migration partnerships with Nigeria, Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, although those do not include the same internship programme.