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TUNIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Tunisia is to get a loan of half a billion euros ($560 million) from the European Union to boost the economy, just weeks after an unemployed man committed suicide when he was refused work, sparking riots by thousands of young men across the country.
Tunisia was the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, triggered by a street vendor setting himself on fire after his vegetable cart was confiscated, and has been hailed as a success story for its transition to democracy.
But economic development and reforms have failed to keep pace with the political changes since the fall of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
“The assistance proposed today is part of broader efforts by the EU to help Tunisia overcome the serious economic difficulties that beset it from the beginning of its political and economic transition process,” the European Commission said in a statement.
Three attacks last year by Islamist militants: against a museum in Tunis, tourists in a Sousse beach resort and a suicide bombing in the capital, have hit the tourist industry especially hard. Tunisia relies heavily on tourists for jobs and revenue.
The EU said the assistance came at the request of Tunisia and will take the form of medium-term loans on favourable financial terms.
France, Tunisia’s former colonial ruler, last month pledged 1 billion euros over five years to help Tunisia, whose young democracy brought a new constitution, a political compromise between secular and Islamist parties and free elections.
Tunisia managed to avoid the violent after-shocks seen in other Arab Spring countries that toppled long-standing leaders in Egypt, Yemen and Libya. (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Patrick Markey and Louise Ireland)