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Algeria - France Relations

As a result of what the French considered an insult to the French consul in Algiers by the dey in 1827, France blockaded Algiers for three years. France then used the failure of the blockade as a reason for a military expedition against Algiers in 1830. By 1848 nearly all of northern Algeria was under French control, and the new government of the Second Republic declared the occupied lands an integral part of France.

From its origins in 1954 as ragtag maquisards numbering in the hundreds and armed with a motley assortment of weapons, the National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale—ALN), the military wing of the FLN, had evolved by 1957 into a disciplined fighting force of nearly 40,000 that successfully applied hit-and-run guerrilla warfare tactics. By 1956 France had committed more than 400,000 troops to Algeria. In 1958–59 the French army had won military control in Algeria, but political developments had already overtaken the French army's successes. During that period in France, opposition to the conflict was growing, and international pressure was also building on France to grant Algeria independence.

When Charles De Gaulle became premier of France in June 1958, he was given carte blanche to deal with Algeria. In September 1959, de Gaulle uttered the words "self-determination," which he envisioned as leading to majority rule in an Algeria formally associated with France. In April 1961 important elements of the French army joined in an unsuccessful insurrection intended to seize control of Algeria as well as topple the de Gaulle regime. This coup marked the turning point in the official attitude toward the Algerian war. De Gaulle was now prepared to abandon the colons [French settlers], the group that no previous French government could have written off. On July 1, 1962, some 6 million of a total Algerian electorate of 6.5 million cast their ballots in the referendum on independence. The affirmative vote was a nearly unanimous mandate.

Bilateral Algerian-French relations have since 1999 enjoyed momentum in all areas. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's state visit to France in June 2000 was the occasion for the launching of a joint agreement on a comprehensive process of refoundation and restructuring of bilateral relations based on the principle of balance and mutual interest.

President Chirac's state visit to Algeria in March 2003 clarified this policy of restructuring bilateral relations with the signing of a basic document which constitutes a real "road map" in this case the "Declaration of Algiers". This text of great political significance lays out a strategy capable of allowing the construction of an exceptional partnership between the two countries which encompasses all the fields ranging from the deepening of the political dialogue, to the strengthening of economic, cultural, scientific and technical as it supports the important human dimension of bilateral relations based on the presence in France of a strong Algerian community.

In the area of defence, action is focused on the following areas: advisory missions for the armed forces, training of elite forces and teaching of French in the military sphere. The teaching of French remains a priority for Algerian students visiting our training schools. During the fourth High-Level Intergovernmental Committee (CIHN) session in December 2017, France and Algeria marked their determination to continue their dialogue and deepen their cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism.

Every year, a joint commission on defence cooperation meets, alternately in France and Algeria. Concrete proposals are made there to boost exchanges of analysis, to increase exchange of expertise, to strengthen operational coordination in counter-terrorism in the Sahel region, and to work to dry up the sources of financing of terrorist groups.

In the internal security field, cooperation is focused on the areas of counter-terrorism, fighting organized crime, illegal immigration and document fraud, and on a vast program to support the modernization of Algerian civil protection services.

The Franco-Algerian bilateral relationship is founded in particular on the unique human and historical ties between the two countries. In the late 1990s, the election of President Bouteflika boosted bilateral relations and fostered Algeria’s return to the international stage. The State visits of Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy in 2003 and 2007, President Hollande on 19 and 20 December 2012, and President Macron on 6 December 2017 reaffirmed the bonds of friendship between Algeria and France.

The French State President Nicolas Sarkozy's State visit to Algiers on December 3, 2007, focused on reviving bilateral relations in all areas. On this occasion, several agreements were concluded, notably the Algerian-French partnership agreement signed on December 4, 2007, which constitutes the basic document for the refoundation of the bilateral relationship.

Since 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria’s independence, our bilateral relationship has seen a historic renewal, made tangible by the signing of the Algiers Declaration on friendship and cooperation between France and Algeria by the two Presidents on 19 December 2012. The creation of the High-Level Intergovernmental Committee (CIHN) bringing together the two governments during regular summits is now the cornerstone of our cooperation with Algeria, enabling the implementation of many joint projects. A France-Algeria bilateral joint economic committee (COMEFA), aimed at supporting the conclusion of productive partnerships, regularly brings together the foreign and economy ministers of both countries to maintain positive bilateral economic momentum.

The visit by the French President on 6 December 2017 set the tone for deeper relations. He delivered three messages to the Algerians: the shared desire to move forward together on the issue of remembrance (return of Algerian human remains conserved at the Musée de l’Homme); a call for a more open Algerian economy and support for mutual investment (creation of a bilateral fund); and the desire for a relationship that better addresses the expectations of young people in particular (higher education and vocational training).

Economic and trade relations have grown rapidly since 1999 and are especially strong. Our trade effectively tripled between 1999 and 2013, making Algeria France’s leading trading partner in Africa and the third-largest market for French exports outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind China and Russia. France remained Algeria’s second-largest partner in 2017, with €4.98 billion of exports and a market share of 9.4%, behind China (18.1%) but ahead of Italy (8.2%) and Germany (7%). Despite regular growth in our exports since 2000, our market share has been falling constantly since the turn of the century because of increased competition (Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey and, above all, China). France seems to have benefited proportionally less than its competitors from the relative opening up of the Algerian economy.

France remains the leading investor outside the hydrocarbons sector and the top foreign employer in Algeria: French businesses employ almost 40,000 people (100,000 if indirect jobs are included), for around 500 companies present in the country (some 30 CAC 40 companies are active or present on the Algerian market). The main sectors for jobs and activity are those of financial services (through the presence of Société Générale and BNP Paribas), and transport (with companies including Air France). In the maritime field, CMA CGM, with its staff of 400 people, is a leader on the Algerian market. France’s economic presence is also considerable in Algeria in the sectors of hospitality and catering (Accor, Sodexo and Newrest), automobile vehicles (Renault and Renault Trucks), the environment (Suez Environnement), electricity (Schneider Electric), agrifood (Avril, Agromed and Axéréal) and health (Sanofi, Ipsen).

There are pro-French lobbies found throughout the Algerian system, slowing what has been a steady evolution out from under the French umbrella. In this context, the $4 million MEPI program to strengthen English teaching in Algeria via training of teachers, upgrading English curricula, and introducing new information technologies, was a particularly important step that would send a strong signal to the public about Algeria's priorities and direction.

The pro-French lobbies had different motivations. Some were financial, i.e. kickbacks, payments, and favors for directing business toward French firms. In the military, the lobby was formed of those who had studied at elite French military academies like Sancerre, though this was changing as more and more Algerian officers concluded that France was a second-tier military power and looked to the U.S. for training, equipment, and technology.

Many entrenched bureaucrats also had a clear pro-French bias, shaped by habit, ideological attitudes, and a desire to win favors such as visas for their friends and family. These attitudes sometimes blocked or delayed projects that could invite increased U.S. presence or influence. The inability of Fox News and the New York Times to get journalists accredited for purposes of preparing programs or supplements on investment/trade opportunities in Algeria could have been the result of such hidden forces. The Ministries of Culture and Communication (which have had responsibility for accreditations and have often been joined in the same ministry) were particularly notorious for the pro-French lobbies imbedded in their ministries.

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Page last modified: 01-03-2019 18:37:14 ZULU