651.72/12–1751: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Department of State 1


3618. French reply to Tunisian note which Chenik released to press (Embtel 3584, Dec 15) has given subj considerable comment.2 In gen right-wing press defends govt note and claims Tunisian demands went much too far while left-wing attacks govt for failing take any conciliatory steps toward satisfying Tunisians.

Line of reasoning of Schuman note is that while Chenik letter of Oct 30 might form basis for conversations, account must be taken of 70 years of French work in Tunisia including continuing contribution of substantial portion of budget and carrying out of large public works prog. French residents in Tunisia, note continues, have played important role in development of country and govt cannot consider setting them aside insofar as participation in public life is concerned (i.e. French will continue to be represented in whatever Consultative Council may be evolved). Future relations between France and Tunisia can only be founded on recognition of “the definitive nature of the bond which unites them”. Note adds that Bey shld now put into effect engagements which he has freely accepted regarding municipal reforms as prerequisite to any other reforms (i.e. creation of Tunisian Assembly). Finally Schuman states French Govt is ordering its rep Tunis to institute next month mixed Franco-Tunisian commission to study what type of rep institution might replace grand council whose mandate has expired.

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Concurrently with publication French note press reports appointment of Voizard now French Min to Monaco to replace Perillier. Text of reply is designed maintain intact French position Tunisia and not offer much hope any widespread reform; dismissal Perillier is considered further indication determination French Govt follow firm line inasmuch as he was considered apostle of concessions to Tunisians and as such anathema to French colony. Combination of Schuman reply and appointment Voizard who is rumored to be advocate firm line Tunisia shld satisfy restlessness French colony in protectorate.

Tunisian reaction to note (text of which is being airmailed) has been as expected unfavorable. Chenik announced to press he considered French document equivalent to refusing to acknowledge Tunisian note at all and was disturbed at ref to cosovereignty of France and Tunisia in ltr country. Tels of protest from Tunisian nationalists and labor groups have already been received in Paris, while Socialist Populaire and Independent Combat and Franc-Tireur are sharply critical of govt and predict difficulties in future. Figaro while approving French reply is rather pessimistic as to future tranquillity but expresses hope mixed commission (to which it is rumored Ramadier may be appointed) may find some way out of impasse. FonOff has little to add to above but officer in charge of protectorates seemed somewhat disappointed govt reply had offered Tunisians so little and omitted certain reforms Quai d’Orsay had suggested such as lifting state of siege.

Early reaction seems generally that French reply does not represent much progress and leaves Franco-Tunisian relations approximately where they were when Perillier went to Tunis.

  1. Repeated for information to Tunis.
  2. The telegram under reference is not printed. Regarding the Tunisian note of October 31, see footnote 3, p. 1420. The text of Foreign Minister Schuman’s reply of December 15 is printed in L’ Année politique, 1951, pp. 591–592.