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Dutch PM hopeful Timmermans slammed for role in EU-Tunisia deal

8 months ago 35

Liberal MP Jan Paternotte (D66/Renew) took aim at former EU climate chief and Dutch prime ministerial candidate Frans Timmermans in an election debate on Sunday, criticising him for his role in the EU-Tunisia migrant deal.

The election debate, organised by WNL op Zondag, saw the runners-up on the election lists of the strongest polling Dutch parties discuss various topics, including migration.

“Frans Timmermans […] was partly responsible for the Tunisia deal in the European Commission – a disastrous deal with a dictator, as a result of which lots of money went there but not a single refugee less [came to Europe],” Paternotte told Esmah Lalah, number two on the joint Labour-Green list led by Timmermans, during the debate.

“He was there, co-responsible in the European Commission, nota bene Ursula von der Leyen’s right-hand man, but did nothing at all,” he added, accusing Timmermans of a lack of leadership.

The migration deal has come under fire since being concluded by von der Leyen, outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD/Renew) and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (FdI/ECR) together with Tunisian President Kais Saied back in July, with critics pointing towards the three European leaders’ lack of legitimacy, Saied’s human rights record and the ineffectiveness of the measures to date.

Just last month, Saied snubbed the European Commission by wiring back €60 million of the promised €785 million under the deal, stating that “our country and our people do not want sympathy and do not accept it when it is without respect”. The Tunisian president caused further outrage by blocking several EU parliamentary delegations from entering the country.

Timmermans himself criticised the deal during an election debate in October, stating that he disagreed with von der Leyen’s unilateral decision to conclude the deal and confronted her following her return to Brussels.

“The leader of that country [Kais Saeid] just got a bag of money and can do what he wants with that bag. That’s just a bad deal,” Timmermans said during the debate, pointing to the EU-Turkey deal he was involved in as a better model for bilateral migration pacts.

(Benedikt Stöckl | Euractiv.com)

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