afrol News, 31 January - EU Foreign Ministers today discussed the situation in Tunisia and Egypt, agreeing to freeze the assets of ex-President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his several of his family in Europe.
Tunisia's interim government last week issued an international arrest order on Mr Ben Ali - currently hiding out in Saudi Arabia - and asked all foreign governments to freeze the assets and account of the ex-President and his family.
While in power, Mr Ben Ali accumulated great wealth. According to a widespread view Tunisians, his wife Leila Trabelsi however was even greedier, using state funds to assure a luxury life and large assets for her and her sons.
Ms Leila Trabelsi is accused of having stolen 1.5 tonnes of gold from the Tunisian Central Bank immediately before her departure from the country.
The 27 European Foreign Minister gathered in Brussels today gave into the Tunisian government demand, deciding to freeze all assets of the Ben Ali family in Europe. Within a few days, a list would be set up with the person's whose assets are frozen, it was said. As an immediate action, the accounts of Mr Ben Ali and his wife were to be frozen.
EU diplomats indicated that the list soon could include Tunisian beyond Mr Ben Ali's extended family. Also several close allies of the ex-President, known to have enriched themselves from state funds, could be added to the list.
The positive answer from Brussels comes as Europe intensively is trying to create ties with the new Tunisian government and gaining sympathy among Tunisians after having supported the Ben Ali regime for decades. Last week, EU diplomats travelled to Tunis to establish contacts with the interim government, opposition, trade unions and human rights groups.
The EU diplomats promised that Tunisia's powerful northern neighbour would give every possible support to prepare upcoming democratic elections and assist Tunisia in stabilising its economy after the unrest.
On Friday, EU "Foreign Minister" Catherine Ashton spoke with Tunisia's new Foreign Minister Ahmed Ounaies, pledging "the EU's solidarity with the Tunisian people in their efforts to build a stable and pluralistic democracy." Minister Ounaies agreed to meet Ms Ashton "in the coming days" to discuss the EU's support for and strategy towards Tunisia.
The European Council, meanwhile today expressed its "total solidarity and its support for Tunisia and Tunisians in their efforts to put in place a stable democracy." The Council now foresees the partnership between Tunisia and the EU "to be strengthened ... thanks to the process of democratic transition."
Meanwhile, the EU Foreign Ministers' statements on the situation in Egypt today was vaguer, only demaning President Mubarak to engage in deep-ploughing reform, not demanding him to step down.
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