The General Director of the government agency responsible for the regulation of petroleum companies in Tunisia has confirmed that the British energy company, Petrofac is to pull out of the country.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, Mohamed Akrout, General Director Entreprise Tunisienne d’Activités Pétrolières, (ETAP) said, “Petrofac is definitely leaving Tunisia and it just started the procedures of leaving the country.” When asked if there was any hope of the gas facility on the Kerkennah islands being taken over by another international company he said “I don’t think that another operator will come and take the place of Petrofac.”
The timing of Petrofac’s announcement comes during an especially sensitive period for the Tunisian government, which is currently heavily committed to attracting further international investment into Tunisia.Commenting on how the timing of the energy giant’s departure, Akrout said, “Petrofac’s decision will have a very negative impact on the international level.”
Akrout also called for a peaceful resolution to be found to the crisis on Kerkennah. “In order to resolve these protests, and to fill the 250 direct jobs we intend to create a new company, which will specifically recruit unemployed people;” Akrout confirmed that ETAP intended to contribute some 2.5 billion Dinars to the new company’s creation.
Petrofac themselves refused to be drawn into expanding further upon their decision to quit Tunisia, responding to Tunisia Live’s enquiries by simply stating, “we have no further comment to make.”
However, in a press conference yesterday, government spokesman Iyad Dahmani said “The Petrofac company has sent a letter to the government in which it said it has commenced procedures to leave Tunisia.” The decision for Petrofac’s departure is believed to stem from the long standing protests over jobs on the island that resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and government forces in April of this year. Despite the news of Petrofac’s decision, protests on Kerkennah remain ongoing.
Speaking on MosaiqueFM’s midday show, Ahmed Souissi, coordinator of the Union of Unemployed Graduates rejected any claim that the protesters were politically motivated. According to Souissi, the demonstrators’ political affiliations had nothing to do with difficulties on Kerkennah. Moreover, accusations that demonstrations on the island were being coordinated by the Popular Front and Hizb ut-Tahrir undermined the legitimate claims of the protesters.
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.