Algeria and France Sign New Pact Amidst of European Energy Crisis | The African Exponent.
The leaders of France and Algeria took an important step during the weekend toward mending relations scarred by disputes over migration and the legacy of colonial crimes, agreeing to cooperate on energy, security and reassessing their joint history.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, wrapped up a three-day visit to Algeria with a raft of accords that France hopes will smooth ties with Africa’s largest country, a major gas and oil supplier to Europe and an influential regional military player.
According to the Elysée palace, President Macron has “made the choice to orientate this visit towards the future and lay down the basis for a relaunching of the relationship”.
In their joint declaration, the two leaders said, “France and Algeria have decided to open a new era … laying the foundation for a renewed partnership expressed through a concrete and constructive approach, focused on future projects and youth.”
At the signing ceremony, President Tebboune addressed his guest in French, gushing over an “excellent, successful visit which allowed for a rapprochement which would not have been possible without the personality of President Macron himself.”
Macron’s visit comes after a long period of tension over conflicting memories of Algeria’s bloody war of independence. Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris late last year over it. But both countries have since signalled their desire for a reset.
Diplomatic tensions frayed last October when he accused the “politico-military system” in power in Algiers of “cashing in on memories” of the war to justify its existence.
A month earlier, France had angered Algeria, as well as neighbouring Morocco, by sharply reducing the number of travel visas it issues. This was in response to claims that both North African countries were obstructing the repatriation of nationals found to be in France illegally.
This visit comes as as European powers scrambled to replace Russian energy imports with supplies from Algeria, Africa’s top gas exporter, which in turn is seeking to expand its clout in North Africa and the Sahel.
With its vast reserves of oil and gas, much of it still untapped, and with pipelines linking it to Italy and Spain, Algeria is in a position not to replace Russia but certainly to help Europe with its energy supplies in the medium term.
In May, President Tebboune signed a major contract in Rome under which Algeria will sharply increase gas and electricity exports to Italy, and experts say the deal shocked France into re-assessing Algeria’s importance.
The countries also agreed to cooperate on gas and hydrogen development and medical research and create a joint commission to examine archives from the 130 years when Algeria was the crown jewel in France’s empire.
The study will include the fallout from French nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara, unsettled questions about the remains of slain resistance fighters and other dark chapters of Algeria’s eight-year war for independence.
But the French President’s visit was not universally welcomed by Algerians. Macron was met by a crowd protesting and shouting “long live Algeria” while he visited Disco Maghreb.
“History can’t be written with lies…like the one that Algeria was created by France,” read an editorial in the French-language, Le Soir newspaper.
“We expected Macron to erase this gross untruth during this visit,” it said, criticising him for a “lack of courage…to recognise his own faults and those of his country”.