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EU to aid Tunisians' readmission: Barroso

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(TUNIS) - The European Union will give 140 million euros ($200 million) to aid Tunisia in readmitting nationals deported from Europe, EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said Tuesday.

"We expect from Tunisia strong and clear action in accepting the readmission of its nationals who find themselves in Europe illegally, as well as in the fight against illegal immigration," he said after meeting Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis.

"Tunisia's commitment is crucial to the future of our cooperation."

Barroso said Europe was ready to help Tunisia if its authorities "do more".

"Emigration is not the solution to the economic challenges of this country. The long-term solution is economic and social development based on the talents and energy of the Tunisian people.

"We are ready to contribute to this economic revival and the fight against poverty."

More than 21,000 Tunisian migrants have arrived on the Italian island of Lampendusa since a popular uprising in January led to the fall of the regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Under a deal between Rome and Tunis last week, Italy agreed to grant six-month residence permits to migrants who arrived before April 5, while Tunisia agreed to the deportation of anyone arriving after that date.

Barroso said migration "should be seen as a common challenge, a shared responsibility".

He added the commission has reworked its four-billion-euro 2011-2013 budget for aiding "southern neighbours", putting aside an extra 140 million euros for Tunisia.

"The EU will always stand by the side of those who walk the path of democracy and reform," he said, paying tribute to "a courageous people who took the future in their own hands."

"Europe is with you. And will stay with you," said Barroso. He has also met interim president Foued Mebazaa.

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