Macron continues Algeria charm offensive to smooth difficult ties

AUG 26, 2022 LISTEN

French President Emmanuel Macron, on a relations-building trip to Algeria, on Friday paid his respects at the mixed Christian-Jewish St Eugene cemetery in the capital Algiers. 

The head of state laid a wreath at a monument to those who “died for France”, accompanied by French military officials. He also visited the Jewish part of the cemetery, accompanied by a group of French Jews who were part of the official delegation.

Later in the day, Macron was to visit the iconic Grand Mosque of Algiers.

The three-day visit is aimed at establishing better relations with Algeria, a former colony that recently marked 60 years of independence after 132 years of French rule.

On Thursday Macron announced the creation of a joint committee to study the colonial period.

Thawing on visa cap?

After tensions between Paris and Algeria last year, France decided to limit the number of visas given to Algerians.

Algeria had refused to bring back irregular Algerian migrants from France, saying that not all illegal migrants were Algerian nationals. 

Reports in the French press indicated that France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that there were 7,000 illegal Algerian nationals, which Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune said was a “lie.”

But Darmanin recently admitted that the numbers of expelled Algerians in France had gone up during the first half of 2022. Some 300 out of 1,600 requests for consular passes had been given in time.

The consular pass is a written authorisation by Algeria to recover those who had been expelled.

This led to more visas being given out to Algerians, but France is hoping for more active cooperation by Algeria on the migration front, especially regarding unaccompanied minors.

On social networks, Algerians questioned the fact that Macron did not openly announce that visas were reduced due to the Algerian state not accepting the readmission of migrants, reports RFI's Algiers correspondent Fayçal Métaoui.

However, others appreciated Macron's declarations of French solidarity with Algeria after forest fires swept through the eastern part of the country. 

Opportunities for youth

Meanwhile Marcon has indicated he would like to create a French-Algerian incubator for digital start-ups. He was slated to speak with young Algerian entrepreneurs about the possibility of a joint venture.

The President has said he wants to facilitate the mobility of artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and academics, especially for youth, naming “digital and cinematographic” as potential areas.

Macron's last day in Algeria will be spent in Oran, a coastal city 420 kilometres west of Algiers, speaking to artists.

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