France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne began a two-day visit to Algeria on Sunday, an important trip that represents a commitment by France to increase ties with Algeria.
The countries have historic relations, and France was the colonial power that once ruled Algeria, meaning that there are often tense issues between the two countries. In August, French president Emmanuel Macron was in Algeria on a trip that was heralded as opening a new page in relations.
The meeting in Algeria is being watched throughout the Middle East. Al-Ain media in the Gulf noted that “half the French government” was in Algeria this week to work on “reconciliation.” The word “half” here apparently refers to the fact that the Prime Minister has brought 16 ministers with her on the trip. This builds on the “renewed partnership” agreement signed in late August.
There are a number of issues that are of importance in this visit
First of all is significance of Borne's plans to discuss economic and trade issues with her Algerian counterparts. It’s not clear if new energy and gas deals could be in the cards, although French and other media have downplayed this issue, asserting gas is not on the agenda. With Europe pivoting away from relying on Russian energy there are many reasons that gas deals would be important.
France is an important power in the Mediterranean, and it has interests in the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with friendly ties to Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon. The French and Turkish leaders recently met for talks with Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of an EU meeting last week.
The goal of the Borne’s visit is to maintain momentum in ties between the countries, according to Le Monde. The article noted that French-Algerian relations seem to go through cycles of warmth and “glaciation.” It also pointed out that “this trip at the head of a substantial government delegation - fifteen ministers and a secretary of state - comes barely a month and a half after the visit of Emmanuel Macron, who had sealed the reconciliation between the two capitals after a year of estrangement.”
Pro-Iranian media in Lebanon is also watching the visit. This likely matters to Hezbollah and Lebanon in general because France also has a historic role in Lebanon and there are the maritime deal talks with Israel that are ongoing.
A report at Al-Mayadeen media says that the visit by the French delegation is expected to result in some bilateral agreements relating to energy, youth, education and other issues. “Through this visit, Paris seeks to give ‘new impetus’ to French-Algerian relations, and to develop them in the future towards concrete projects.”
There will also be talks about visas. There are many people in France of Algerian descent, likely more than one or two million, and there are some seven million Algerians living abroad, according to a recent article at Al-Jazeera. In 2018 there were some 6.5 million immigrants living in France, the Algeria-France connection is not just a matter of history, or energy ties; or geographic proximity; but ties that involve many millions of people and their descendants.
There are also large number of people in France who are descendants of French who left Algeria when the country became independent. There were also more than 150,000 Algerian Jews who lived in the country until the 1960s, when most were forced to leave when the country became independent.