This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

Plenary speech on the situation in Tunisia

Mr President, I would like to congratulate the Tunisian people for their bravery, courage and persistence in speaking up for opportunities and freedom, and I hope all can refrain from using violence and that there will be free and fair elections soon. Citizens spoke out against an oppressive regime which has used bullets and killed its youth. Only weak governments go to such lengths to preserve their artificially obtained corrupt power and wealth. Regimes derive their legitimacy from providing for the wellbeing of their citizens, not from closing universities and access to information and free communications. With regard to access to information, the Tunisian opposition used the Internet, and the Internet is becoming more and more important for peaceful opposition across the world. I learned about the uprising by the citizens’ movement in Tunisia through the Internet and eyewitness accounts that were posted there, but it took about a month of the struggle before mainstream media and political leaders woke up to the realities of the street. In the same week – last week – the French Minister for Foreign Affairs offered help to the Tunisian Government in the form of riot police and assistance in policing. What is the Commission’s reaction to that offer, and where was the help for citizens in support of their rights? (Applause) The confrontation between the Tunisian Government and its people took place on the virtual highways of the Internet as much as on the streets. The Tunisian Government was known for being among the most advanced in the use of filtering and censoring software, and over the past month, it spared no efforts to repress people through these technologies. Repressive regimes across the world continue to use technologies to silence free speech. Today is Martin Luther King Day and it was Martin Luther King who said that a time comes when silence becomes betrayal. Commissioner Füle, that time has arrived. The United States has lost significantly in terms of credibility in its fight for leadership in Internet freedom. The EU has a struggle ahead, about which we will speak tonight in relation to the upcoming Hungarian laws. But the young, freedom-loving generation across the world is looking to the symbolic example that Tunisia has given and is looking to the EU for support, and there is no reason why we should not lead in defending people’s freedoms, including on the Internet.