PARIS (Reuters) – Emmanuel Macron begins a three-day official visit to Algeria on Thursday that will focus primarily on “youth and the future” to “rebuild” a relationship damaged by months of memory.
“The President of the Republic chose to direct this visit to the future, start-ups, innovation, youth, new sectors”, underlined the Eliseu on Tuesday.
He will thus have a “long exchange” on Friday with young entrepreneurs in Algiers and will also meet young people in Oran, the country’s second largest city, on the occasion of a breakdancing event.
The visit, President Macron’s second to Algeria since his election in 2017, aims to “lay the foundations for rebuilding, developing” the relationship between Paris and Algiers, the French presidency insisted.
It comes at the end of a symbol-laden sequence with the 60th anniversary of the Evian Accords (March 18, 1962), which ended more than seven years of war between Algerian insurgents and the French army, and Algeria’s independence. , July, 5th.
The relationship between the two countries, still very marked by 132 years of French colonization, was announced under the best auspices with the election of President Macron, the first of the Fifth Republic born after 1962.
But she soon ran into a series of misunderstandings around this painful shared history. If unprecedented memorial gestures multiplied, Emmanuel Macron did not present the apologies expected by Algiers.
Chief Rabbi and Grand Mosque
His remarks about the “memorial income” exploited by the Algerian “political-military system” since 1962, the “hatred of France” and his questions about the existence of an Algerian nation before colonization consummated the rupture with the autumn of 2021, with the three month souvenir of the Algerian ambassador in Paris.
Since then, Paris and Algiers have opted for a heating of their relations, dictated by other priorities, from the war in Ukraine to the security of the Sahel.
The French president intends to “continue the work of appeasement of memories” – he will go to the Saint-Eugène cemetery in Algiers, where many French born in Algeria are buried – but this “is not the primary objective of this visit”, observes the Elysee.
To mark this revival, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who will welcome his counterpart on his arrival on Thursday afternoon, will host a state dinner in his honor in the evening. The two leaders will meet first at the Martyrs’ Memorial before speaking individually.
The French president will be accompanied by a delegation of 90 people, including seven ministers, among them Bruno Le Maire (Economy), Gérald Darmanin (Interior) and Catherine Colonna (Foreign Affairs), parliamentarians, heads of large groups (Xavier Niel for Iliad, Catherine MacGregor for Engie, Rodolphe Saadé for point guard CMA-CGM) or Sarah Ourahmoune, Olympic boxing runner-up in Rio.
France’s chief rabbi, Haïm Korsia, the son of Algerian-born Jews, will also be on the trip. Emmanuel Macron will visit the Great Mosque of Algiers, as well as Santa Cruz and its Christian chapel, on the heights of Oran.
On the economic side, gas will not be at the center of discussions, assures Paris, although Europeans, in their haste to reduce dependence on Russian supplies in the context of the war in Ukraine, are increasingly turning to Algeria.
The two presidents will also discuss the situation in Mali, from which the French army has just withdrawn, and more broadly in the Sahel and Libya.
Algeria plays a central role in the region due to its diplomatic weight and its thousands of kilometers of borders with Mali, Niger and Libya.
President Macron will also address “with complete frankness” Russia’s growing influence in the region, particularly Mali, the Elysée said, pointing to “differences in approach” with Algiers, with close ties to Moscow.
The two leaders must also discuss the 50% reduction in the number of Schengen visas granted by Paris to Algerians, in a context of dispute regarding the readmission of Algerian citizens considered undesirable in France.
Paris notes, however, the increase in the number of readmissions in Algeria in recent months and expects a “lift” soon of the latest “blockades” at this point.
Emmanuel Macron, challenged by the diaspora on the human rights situation, will also address this issue during his visit, “according to the methods he will decide” and in “respect for Algerian sovereignty”, assured the Elysee.