Tunisia on the Mediterranean coast of Africa has
been invaded by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and
French during various eras. The country that became an
independent state in 1956 experienced the first
genuinely popular revolution in the Arab world in 2011.
Several other countries came to follow, but Tunisia soon
emerged as the only example of democratization.
Brief profiles of Tunisia, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Tunisia is located in North Africa between
Algeria in the west and Libya in the southeast. In the
north and east, the country has a coast of more than 130
km towards the Mediterranean. The distance to Sicily is
less than 15 km.
Northwestern Tunisia is dominated by the Atlas
Mountain foothills north and south of Medjerda, the only
Tunisian river that does not occasionally dry out. The
mountains are partly wooded, and between them lie
fertile valleys. The wetlands in the north are on the UN
body UNESCO World Heritage List but are strongly
threatened by environmental degradation.
In the north there is a Mediterranean climate with
hot, dry summers and relatively rainy winters. In the
mountains in the northwest, most rain falls throughout
The country's middle part consists of steppe and low
mountain plateaus. There are also salt lakes (this is
To the south, the climate is drier and in the far
south there is a desert climate with hardly any rainfall
at all. From Algeria, the Saharan sand desert Grand Erg
Oriental runs into Tunisia. Even oases in the Sahara are
now among the destinations that attract tourists.
164 150 km2 (2018)
Adjacent country (s)
Capital with number of inhabitants
Tunis 639,000 (2.4 million in metropolitan area)
Other major cities
Sfax 273 000, Sousse 222 000 (2012)
Jebel Chambi (1,554 m asl)
Increased migrant smuggling via Tunisia
Tunisian fishermen find about 20 people drowned on islands outside the city
of Sfax. Those killed are believed to be Ivory Coast migrants who have tried to
get to Italy a few days earlier but have been in distress. Other migrants say
they were on a boat that may have had an additional 30 passengers on board. The
number of attempts at migrant smuggling off the Tunisian coast has increased by
2020, states Vincent Cochetel, who for the UN organization UNHCR is following
the situation in the Mediterranean. He has compared the period January-April
with the same period the year before.
Corona restrictions are stepped down
Prime Minister Fakhfakh announces a plan for Tunisia's economy after the
corona crisis. According to the plan, the plan is expected to be presented to
Parliament at the end of June and will focus on particularly affected industries
(the tourism industry can be expected to be one of them). The restrictions on
the spread of infection introduced in the country during the spring began to
ease in early May and the return to normal social functions takes place in
several steps. By the time Fakhfakh holds his TV speech, 47 covid-19 death
victims are known in Tunisia.
Emergency loans from the IMF against the corona crisis
The Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) paid
emergency loans of $ 745 million to Tunisia's emergency response to the corona
crisis. The money will mainly go to health care and to companies that lose
income during the crisis.
Fakhfakh is allowed to govern by decree
Prime Minister Fakhfakh is given increased power to be able to make decisions
that counteract the corona pandemic. That is the meaning of a decision taken by
Parliament. 178 out of 217 members vote in favor. For two months, the Prime
Minister is given the right to rule by decree, without the decisions having to
be approved by the elected officials before they can take effect. But when the
two-month period expires, the decrees to Parliament must be ratified.
EU contribution to coronavirus
The EU pledges EUR 250 million to Tunisia to help the country fight the
covid-19 viral disease. One week earlier, the Tunisian government has announced
a support package worth a total of € 48 million to the worst affected, which
must, however, register at least one week into April in order to receive the
Curfew on the spread of infection
Nightly curfew is introduced to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, and
a few days later, citizens' freedom of movement is also restricted during the
day. On March 23, authorities say more than 400 people have been arrested for
breaking the rules, but all but 30 have been released with a warning. Of the 90
confirmed cases of illness in Tunisia, three patients have died. Military is
ordered out on the streets to ensure compliance with the regulations and more
than 400 restaurants and cafes are forced to close.
New government approved
Almost five months after the parliamentary elections, Tunisia gets a new
government. A ministry proposed by Elyas Fakhfakh, former finance minister who
now has the post of prime minister, wins a vote of confidence in Parliament.
After being promised six ministerial posts, the Islamist party Ennahda has also
promised to participate. An immediate task for the government is to negotiate
with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2016, the IMF approved a
four-year loan of $ 3 billion, against claims for certain refomas. So far, 1.6
billion has been paid out. The loan promise expires in April and the first
repayments are scheduled to be made in November.
Islamists slow new government
Elyas Fakhfakh, who has been given the presidency's mandate to form a
government, finishes a set of laws but encounters immediate problems: the
ministers linked to the large Islamist party Ennahda he wants to appoint resign.
By March 15, Fakhfakh must obtain a minister approved by Parliament.
UN Security Council challenge for Saïed
President Saïed's first foreign policy action is called into question.
Following a powerful UN condemnation of a peace plan put forward by US President
Donald Trump for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Kaïs Saïed
suddenly replaces the country's UN ambassador Moncef Baati. Despite Saïed's
earlier strong support for the Palestinians, Baati goes further in his criticism
of the United States than the Tunisian government wishes. Tunisia is currently
the only Arab country in the UN Security Council, and diplomatic sources say the
US is exerting pressure on member states not to support Palestinian initiatives
in the UN.
Bloggers with impact die
Activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni dies at the age of 36 after several
years of illness. In 2011, when the Arab Spring erupted with Tunisia as the
first protest scene, she had a key role through her reports from the country's
poorest areas. For several years, she documented through her blog how the regime
under President Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali abused the country. Ben Ali was the first
of the undemocratic leaders in the Arab world to be driven away by the popular
wave of protest.
New Government Former appointed
President Saïed commissioned former finance minister Elyas Fakhfakh to try to
form a government. Youssef Chahed's government remains as transitional minister.
If Fakhfakh fails to get Parliament's approval for a new government, fresh
elections must be held.
Death sentence for bus attack
Eight defendants are sentenced to death for an 2015 attack targeted at the
Presidential Guard's bus, and two are sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.
Twelve people died in the attack in Tunis that the Islamic State (IS) terror
group took on. Only four of the suspects were present in court, the others were
convicted in their absence. Tunisia has not executed any execution since 1991.
No to the Jemli government
Parliament votes against the ministry proposed by Habib Jemli, with 134 votes
against and 72 votes in favor. The rejection means that within ten days
President Saïed must ask someone else to form a government. Especially for the
Ennahda party, the vote is a defeat. Qalb Tounes, the TV mogul Nabil Karoui's
party, which is the second largest in the parliament with 38 seats, believes
that Jemli's proposal would not have given a sufficiently independent
Jemli's ministerial list ready
Prime Minister candidate Habib Jemli presents the new government which he
hopes will be approved by Parliament (see November 15, 2019).
Among the 28 selected, who are described as politically independent, there are
four women. Soccer player Tarek Dhiab is intended for the Sports Minister's
portfolio and actor Fathi Hadaoui as Minister of Culture. Few of the other
people Jemli wants to appoint are known names to the public, but the ministerial
list has been preceded by negotiations between the parties that also unions have
participated in. The only one from the previous government who is allowed to
remain in his post is Roni Trabelsi, who is responsible for a important
portfolio: tourism (see November 5, 2018).