French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Algeria on Thursday for a three-day visit aimed at addressing two major challenges: boosting future economic relations and healing colonial-era wounds
France’s President Emmanuel Macron begins 3-day Algeria trip with dual purpose
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Algeria on Thursday for a three-day visit aimed at addressing two major challenges: boosting future economic relations and healing colonial-era wounds.
The visit comes less than a year after a monthlong diplomatic crisis between the two countries stirred up tensions 60 years after the North African country won its independence from France.
The war in Ukraine has reinforced Algeria’s status as a key partner in providing gas to the European continent.
In recent years, Macron has made unprecedented steps to acknowledge torture and killings by French troops during Algeria’s 1954-62 war of independence, in a bid to improve the two countries’ still rancorous relations.
Yet the series of symbolic gestures has fallen short of an apology from France for its actions during the war — a longstanding demand from Algeria.
“We have a common past. It is complex, painful and it has sometimes prevented us from looking to the future,” Macron said during a joint media statement with Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune in the capital, Algiers.
The two leaders agreed to form a joint commission of historians who will examine the past from the beginning of the French colonisation in 1830 to Algeria’s liberation in 1962.
Earlier on Thursday, the two leaders attended a ceremony at the Martyrs’ Memorial, which pays tribute to those who died during Algeria’s struggle for independence, before heading to the presidential El Mouradia palace for a meeting and dinner.
Tebboune said Macron’s visit will “energize” the relationship between Algeria and France.
Their ties are “deep and diverse,” but the two countries need more trade agreements nd an improved business climate in Algeria to build a stronger economy for his country’s youth, Tebboune said in a joint statement to the media after the leaders’ first meeting in the capital, Algiers.
This is the second time Macron has been to Algeria as president.
During a brief stop in December 2017, he called for a “partnership between equals.” Months before that, during a trip to Algiers as a presidential candidate, he called colonization a “crime against humanity.”
Macron, the first French president born after the end of Algeria’s brutal seven-year war of independence in 1962, has promised a reckoning of colonial-era wrongs.
The country was occupied by France for 132 years.
In 2018, Macron recognised the responsibility of the French state in the 1957 death of a dissident in Algeria, Maurice Audin, admitting for the first time the military’s use of systematic torture during the war.
He later made a key decision to speed up the declassification of secret documents related to the war, amid other gestures.
Macron will have a second meeting with Tebboune on Friday in the presence of the French army chief and defense and foreign ministers to discuss peace and stability in the region, after France completed the withdrawal of its troops from Mali earlier this month.
Paris still maintains troops in the broader Sahel region, with the heart of the operation moved to Niger.
Coordination with Algerian authorities is crucial, as the country shares long borders in the Sahara with Mali, Libya and Niger, paths used by smugglers and Islamic extremists, the Elysee stressed.
No energy supply or other big trade contract is expected during Macron’s trip, but the focus will be on future economic relations.
Algeria’s status as a key gas supplier for Europe has been enhanced amid fears that Russia could cut off supplies.
The North African country is the EU’s third-largest gas supplier, representing 8.2% of the 27-nation bloc’s imports in 2021.