Frenchman Macron urges future with Algeria beyond ‘painful’ history – Middle East Monitor

President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that France and Algeria should move beyond their “painful” shared history and look to the future at the start of a three-day visit to the North African country, Reuters reports.

The trauma of French colonial rule in Algeria and the bitter war of independence that ended it in 1962 haunted relations between the two countries for decades and played into a diplomatic dispute that erupted last year.

“We have a complex and painful common past. And that has sometimes prevented us from looking to the future,” Macron said after meeting his Algerian counterpart, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Alongside Macron, Tebboune said: “We hope that this visit will open up new prospects for partnership and cooperation with France.”

Ties with Algeria have become more important to France because the war in Ukraine has increased demand in Europe for North African gas and because of increasing migration across the Mediterranean.

READ: Frenchman Macron visits Algeria in search of better relations

Algeria, meanwhile, is seeking to take advantage of rising energy prices to lock in European investment.

Macron has long wanted to move on with Algeria and in 2017 he called French actions during the 1954-62 war that killed hundreds of thousands of Algerians a “crime against humanity”.

This statement, politically controversial in France, won him popularity in Algeria during his last visit five years ago and he was celebrated by young Algerians.

Macron will again speak to Algerian youth on this visit with scheduled stops focusing on youth culture, including breakdancing and North African “Rai” pop music. France has more than four million inhabitants of Algerian origin.

However, Macron’s hopes of moving beyond the checkered history of the colonial era have proven premature before.

Last year he was quoted as suggesting Algerian national identity did not exist before French rule and accusing Algerian leaders of rewriting the history of the independence struggle based on hatred of France.

READ: Algeria: Islamic Party warns against visit by Chief Rabbi of France

The remarks caused a storm in Algeria, where the ruling elite is still dominated by the generation that fought for independence and where this struggle is central to the national identity.

Algeria has withdrawn its ambassador for consultations and closed its airspace to French planes – complicating the French military mission in the Sahel.

Prior to his meeting with Tebboune, Macron visited a monument to Algerians killed in war, laying a wreath there. He said the two governments would establish a joint committee of historians to study colonial-era records.

Edward N. Arrington