French President Emmanuel Macron hopes that his three-day trip to Algeria beginning Thursday will end a diplomatic squabble and allow him to strengthen ties with young Algerians, but the North African country’s leaders may be difficult to persuade.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune wants solid investment commitments, which appear unlikely to be announced this week, as well as Macron to apologize for comments he made about Algeria’s history and ruling elite last year.
Better relations with its former colony are becoming increasingly important for France as a result of an energy shortage caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as increased migration across the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Algeria wants to take advantage of high energy prices to secure large contracts and investment projects, as it has done with Italy and Turkey, locking in revenues that will help it weather any future downturns.
“Algeria seeks strong economic ties and a serious partnership,” an Algerian official said on condition of anonymity.
Macron’s delegation will include the CEOs of Engie and Free, but no major business deals will be signed, according to the Elysee.
When Macron last visited Algeria in 2017, he was greeted warmly by young Algerians eager to contrast his youth with the old age of their own leaders, and they were pleased that he had described French colonial rule as a “crime against humanity.”
“We will never forget what he said when asked about the Algerian war,” Nourreddine Ayoub said on an Algiers street on Wednesday.
Macron appears eager to capitalize on that goodwill this week, with plans to visit Algerian “martyrs” of independence from France, as well as a breakdance show and a shop famous for its role in North African “Rai” pop music.
“During this visit, the president has chosen to focus on the future,” said a Macron adviser.
However, Macron’s long-stated desire to move on from the heinous legacy of French colonial rule in Algeria, as well as his frustration with what he sees as Algerian authorities’ obsession with it, resulted in a major breach last year that may overshadow his trip.
In campaign remarks, he claimed that Algeria’s national identity was forged under French rule and that the country’s leadership had rewritten the history of the independence struggle based on a hatred of France.
Algeria’s leaders responded by withdrawing their ambassador for consultations and closing their airspace to French aircraft, complicating transport routes for France’s military mission in the Sahel.
Tebboune and his military allies may still be irritated, according to Algiers mood music. In the run-up to Macron’s visit, state media, whose tone often reflects official thinking, has published stories critical of France.
Algerian organizations, according to a state news agency report this week, have demanded that Macron stop hosting groups in France that they see as hostile to Algeria and supported by its main regional rival Morocco.
Meanwhile, conservative politicians have expressed displeasure with Macron’s decision to bring the bishop of Algiers and France’s chief rabbi to a colonial-era non-Muslim cemetery.
An opposition leader, Abderazak Makri, said the move appeared to be aimed at encouraging Algeria to normalize relations with Israel.
“Algeria’s stance is well known. They’re not going to change… France is a secular country. We have no idea why a religious man is in the delegation “according to the Algerian official.