Tunisian officials say that Tunisian-Italian relations will remain solid and will only improve after the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. It is not a secret that Tunisians and Italians share a unique background and have a lot in common. In fact, Nessma TV a Pan-maghreb channel based in Tunis was co-founded by Tarak Ben Ammar, a media guru, the Karoui brothers, Nebil and Ghazi and Berlusconi.
Nessma shareholder Berlusconi resigned from his position as Prime Minister hours after the lower house of parliament gave final approval to a package of economic reforms aimed at avoiding a bailout of the eurozone’s third-largest economy. Berlusconi had a racy reputation and years of being dogged by accusations of philandering, but it was economics — not a sex scandal — that finally brought the curtain down on the 75-year-old media baron turned politician’s political career. The designated new Prime Minister is a high-profile economist, Mario Monti, a respected former European Commissioner who is currently dean of Bocconi University, Italy’s leading economic research hub. Berlusconi was very well known for dealing with and supporting Ben Ali’s regime, he also had an influential effect on the Tunisian political arena through his channel Nessma TV. Therefore, many are wondering about the future of Tunisian-Italian relations after the resignation of Berlusconi.
Mohamed Jgham, the former diplomat in Rome, told Tunisia Live that the Tunisian-Italian relations are very close and strong, they will not be affected by the resignation of Berlusconi. “We know Italians very well and they know us as well, Berlusconi and Ben Ali were good friends, they were sharing phone calls and exchanging gifts, so it is better to have a fresh start with a new figure that did not deal with the former regime… maybe with Mario Monti, Tunisia will have a better relations.”
Andrea Bellamanbbae, a press secretary at the Italian Embassy in Tunisia, said: “The relationship between Italy and Tunisia was excellent while Berlusconi was Prime Minister and we hope that it will be even more consolidated with the new Italian Prime Minister Monti.”
Most Tunisians however, do not share Bellamanbbae’s assessment that Berlusconi represented the best Italian face for excellent relations with the Tunisian people. Mohamed Benour, a Tunisian politician and the spokesperson of the center-left party, Ettakatol, said: “For us Berlusconi represents the overthrown regime, we need to build new transparent relations on new grounds, we know that Berlusconi was in good terms with Ben Ali that’s way the new government needs to investigate the relations they had and reveal everything about them, because we still do not know everything about Berlusconi’s dealings in Tunisia.”
It is true that little is known about Berlusconi’s affairs in Tunisia and his relationships with dictators such as Ben Ali and Gaddafi, but all odds indicate that the Tunisian-Italian relations will only be further enhanced and reinforced now that he has resigned.