As part of a 4-day visit to Tunisia, the Commissioner announced the development and extension of a number of bilateral programs to strengthen cultural and educational ties with the EU.
Vassiliou emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for young Tunisians to have access to quality education and to be able to develop relationships and partnerships with peers in different countries.
In doing so, she stressed the important role education and culture will play in consolidating democracy following the revolution.
She said that the revolution had provided the opportunity for young people to more fully participate in the democratic and decision-making process. However for this to develop, it was necessary for Tunisian youth to learn about democracy and human rights in school.
To support this process, the European Union is increasing funding for several programs aimed at promoting mobility and intercultural partnerships for young Tunisians. These include an expansion of the popular exchange program Erasmus Mundus, designed to encourage the mobility of university students and lecturers, as well as providing funding opportunities for cultural organizations to develop partnerships with their European counterparts.
From 2014 Tunisians will be able to apply for EU financial support for collaborative cultural projects through the Creative Europe program. Likewise, students in Tunisian high schools can now participate in the European E-twinning program which funds digital partnerships between classes in different countries.
Vassiliou was keen to point out that while these programs were designed to give Tunisians greater opportunities to develop ties with Europe, this was not an attempt to influence the debate on national identity currently occurring in Tunisia. “We have no desire to impose a European Identity in Tunisia. We respect the cultural diversity and identity of our member states and we will do the same for Tunisia,” she said.
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