The eight MPs and officials of the Tunisian parliament, led by the President of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People Mohamed Ennaceur, were given an insight into Swiss federal and cantonal parliamentary procedures and Switzerland's brand of federalism during their four-day stay in Bern and Fribourg. The study trip focused on consensus-building, the separation of powers, legislative processes and monitoring. The Tunisian delegation paid an official visit to the Federal Assembly and held meetings with President of the National Council Christa Markwalder, President of the Council of States Raphaël Comte, and members of the Foreign Affairs and Political Institutions Committees. They also met with the Parliamentary Services to discuss the role and duties of Parliament and organisational issues concerning the functioning of Parliament. Representatives from the Federal Office of Justice explained the role of the administration in the legislative process. The canton of Fribourg was used as an example of the cantonal and communal status in Switzerland's federalist system.
The study trip is part of Switzerland's broader commitment to democratisation in Tunisia, which it has been supporting since 2011. It was organised by the Human Security Division (HSD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in close cooperation with the Parliamentary Services, who provided expertise concerning parliamentary work.
First steps towards democratisation completed
In 2011, political events in Tunisia led to the overthrow of President Ben Ali and also impacted on the region. The Federal Council responded to these events with Switzerland's North Africa programme for 2011-16. The aim of this programme was to help the process of democratisation specifically, and to promote economic development – particularly by creating jobs. Switzerland's engagement in Tunisia also prioritises migration and the protection of particularly vulnerable groups.
Tunisia adopted its new democratic constitution in January 2014, with parliamentary and presidential elections being held at the end of the year. While the country has successfully completed these key stages on its path to democratisation, there are still vital steps to be taken in order to implement the constitution, such as in relation to decentralisation. Switzerland is continuing to assist the responsible Tunisian authorities with expertise and know-how from its own and international experiences, e.g. by holding seminars and round tables. This includes the current Tunisian delegation's study trip to Bern and Fribourg.
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