Updated 2/18/23 at 9:35pm
Tunisian President Kais Saied on Saturday ordered the expulsion of the European Union’s top trade union official over what Tunis has described as “blatant interference” in the country’s internal affairs, the presidency said. “By order of President Kais Saied, the Tunisian authorities have ordered the departure of Esther Lynch,” the Secretary-General of the European Trade Union Confederation said in a press release.
According to the press release, Esther Lynch “attended a demonstration organized by the Tunisian General Union (UGTT) and made remarks that constitute blatant interference in Tunisia’s internal affairs”. The authorities are giving her 24 hours to leave Tunisia, where she is now considered “persona non grata”, according to the same source.
“Hands off our unions, free our leaders”
Earlier in the day, the European trade union official took part in a demonstration organized in the port city of Sfax at the call of the powerful trade union confederation UGTT. It was one of many demonstrations organized simultaneously in several cities across the country to protest the arrest of a key local union official and the deteriorating economic situation.
Esther Lynch came to bring “solidarity from Europe’s 45 million workers” and addressed the crowd gathered in this historic bastion of Tunisian trade unionism. “We say to governments: free our unions, free our leaders,” she said. The Tunisian government must “sit down and negotiate with the UGTT to find a solution” to improve the current political and economic situation, she added. In particular, the demonstrators protested the arrest at the end of January of Anis Kaabi, in charge of the UGTT’s highway department.