An interesting conversation with the Tunisian Consul in Madrid
13 junio, 2016
MADRID – Last June 8th I had the pleasure to meet and interview Omar Amine Abdallah, the Tunisian Consul here in Madrid. I have chosen to interview someone from Tunisia because it is one of the few countries, among the Middle East and Maghreb region, that I visited and because I like it.
Omar Abdallah is a Tunisian man. His family comes from Monastir, but he was born and grew up in the capital of Tunisia, Tunis. After the high school (the so-called baccalauréat), he attended the career of Communication and Press. Since he was a child, his dream has been to become a diplomat, so he successfully participated to a ministerial competitive exam and he could attend the two-year diplomatic school. In 2008, he began his first assignment as a diplomat and since 2013 he has been the Consul in Madrid.
The first question that I wanted to address Omar was how the relationship between Spain and Tunisia is and, if in some way, this relationship has been affected by the Arab Spring. Tunisia is a political and business partner for Spain, Omar answered. Between these two countries there is a diplomatic cooperation and a clear will to improve and increase these bilateral relationships. In addition to this, Omar highlighted that the Spanish Government has expressed its support and solidarity to the Tunisian Government and citizens during the post-revolutionary democratic transition. The evidence of this support are the multiple official visits between these two countries in the last few years. For instance, Omar mentioned the frequent visits to the other country of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the visit of the Tunisian Prime Minister, Habib Essid, to Spain in November 2015.
Another issue that Omar and I discussed was the presence of Tunisian people in Spain and the reasons why they decided to come to Spain, but also the role of the Embassy in their lives. Spain and Tunisia belong to the same Mediterranean region, affirmed Omar, and friendly relationships exist between the two countries, as stated before. These reasons push Tunisians to move to Spain in order to find a job or to study, in particular in scientific careers. There are about 4,000 Tunisians in Spain and they are workers or students. Thanks to the increasing teaching of Spanish in Tunisia as a foreign language, more and more Tunisians select Spain as a new destination besides France, Germany and Italy.
Regarding the Embassy’s role, Omar very well knows what the Embassy can do for its citizens, as he works within this sector. Tunisians often go to their Embassy to ask for certificates, in particular the renovation of the passport, civil registry’s documents, or just to ask for information.
I wanted to ask Omar if he would advise Spanish people to go to Tunisia on holiday, especially after the two terrorist attacks of 2015 – for who does not remember, Bardo Museum attack at Tunis and tourist resort attack at Sousse. Omar gave an answer that convinced me. He affirmed that there are several reasons that can push Spanish people and everybody to go to Tunisia in this moment. First, in the last few months, no region of the world is safety. For instance, France, Belgium and Turkey are the most attacked countries at the moment, but people have not stopped to go there. This is a good thing because if people stopped travelling, terrorists would win the battle. Secondly, despite Bardo Museum and Sousse attacks, Tunisia continue to promote its country to go on holiday because in just two-hour flight from Madrid Spanish people can discover a captivating country, one of the most developed countries in the Islamic world. In addition to this, Tunisia «offers different natural environment, from desert to oasis, along with a 1,300-km long coast. Hospitality and kindness of my community are other characteristics of Tunisia, besides the cultural heritage – result of the remnants that Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs leave in the Tunisian land. We can’t forget Tunisian cuisine, craftwork, … an endless list», Omar specified.
As last question, I chose to ask about the current situation in Tunisia. The Consul offered me to talk with the Deputy Head of Embassy. His name is Mounir Fourati and worked all around the world, along with Japan, Argentina, South Africa and now Spain. He gave me a very detailed panorama on the present situation in his country, from terrorism issue to economy and education. In particular, he wanted to highlight that they are not familiarized with terrorism and from 1956, the year Tunisia reached the independence from France, they have never faced this kind of situation. «We have to deal with, to understand and to work. It’s not a national problem; it’s an international problem», affirmed Mounir. This is what the Western countries have to understand.
In conclusion, as Mounir said to me, it is important to remember that some countries do not welcome this potentially contagious democratic wave and they see Tunisia own pacific democratic transition as a threat. It is thanks to the maturity and education of the Tunisian citizens that the democratic transition in Tunisia took place peacefully.
By Giulia Belometti