Tunisia, the country that triggered the wave of political change sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa, is seeking to become a shareholder of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a recipient of EBRD financing.
In a letter to EBRD President Thomas Mirow, Tunisia’s Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Abdelhamid Triki, said Tunisia had embarked resolutely on a path of political, economic and social reforms to achieve democratic transition and to meet the aspirations of the Tunisian people.
The government’s Recovery Plan that had recently been approved after consultation with civil society aimed to ensure transparency, good governance, and accelerate growth in order to stimulate social cohesion.
“In this context I wish to inform you that we are very much interested in having the EBRD’s support in this process,” the letter said, adding that Tunisia was convinced that the EBRD’s expertise in supporting the economic transition of central and eastern Europe “would be extremely useful in our current circumstances”.
EBRD shareholders are currently assessing a request from existing EBRD member Egypt to become a country where the Bank invests and is also considering changes to its statutes in order to be able to extend its mandate to the broader Middle East/North Africa region. Morocco, another founding shareholder, is also seeking recipient status.
The letter from the Tunisian authorities said Tunisia was aware that a change in the Bank’s statutes was needed for Tunisia and other countries in the region to receive EBRD financing. “We should like this process to be completed as quickly as possible,” Mr Triki wrote.
The international community has urged the EBRD to become part of the economic response to the ‘Arab Spring’, applying its 20 years of experience in supporting the economic transformation of countries in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
If shareholders agree to an extension of the EBRD’s geographic mandate – a step that would need unanimous approval by all EBRD shareholders - the Bank would aim especially to help promote the development of the private sector, the area where it traditionally provides about 80 to 90 percent of its investments.
The EBRD has calculated that it would be in a position, after an initial build up period, to invest around €2.5 billion a year in the Middle East/North Africa region without seeking additional funds from shareholders.
It has also stressed that any investment undertaken in a new region would not detract in any way from its commitments to its existing countries of operations and would be done in close cooperation with other International Financial Institutions, with each organisation bringing its own individual expertise and skills.