European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani called yesterday evening for the promotion of Muslim tourism in Europe at a conference in Tunisia concerning economic relations between Europe and North Africa.
“I am also thinking of studying the Muslim religious pilgrimage sites in Europe to try to draw tourists from Tunisia and other countries from Islamic regions,” he said. He pointed to the shared history of Europe and Islamic civilizations, likely in reference to Spain’s Andalusia, southern France, and Sicily, which were all under Arab rule at some point in their past.
The declaration came during a press conference following the 10th Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) summit, held in Gammarth, Tunisia, where Tajani stressed the importance of strengthening economic ties across the Mediterranean region.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the European Commission is increasing its budget directed towards assistance for democratizing North African countries. 80 million Euros have been allocated toward financing university loans and student exchanges with southern Mediterranean countries.
“It is necessary that Europe be open to young people in search of professional and scientific experiences,” asserted Tajani during his concluding remarks at the FEMIP summit.
One of the goals of the vice president’s official visit is to negotiate a conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products (ACAA) agreement with the Tunisian government. Slashing bureaucracy and standardizing export and import regimes are the focus of an ACAA accord. Such an agreement would not only lead to a more integrated Euro-Mediterranean market in the future but also aid small and medium-sized enterprises in the region, argued Tajani.
In the same press conference after the FEMIP summit, Tajani addressed the issue of regional integration in the context of the economic turbulence in the Eurozone.
“In order to overcome the challenges presented by the [Eurozone] crisis we must support the markets. We have a large domestic market [in Europe] but I think it is very important for us […] to expand it to the countries of North Africa.”