July 5 was the date of Algeria’s independence after the Evian treaties of March 18, 1962, but also the date of the massacre of Europeans in Oran. In fact, a few hours before the proclamation of Algeria’s independence, explosions erupted in the heart of the city, where thousands of Algerians were celebrating the freedom of their people. After that, several armed men attacked the Europeans present, causing the deaths of many of them. Thus, this 60th anniversary of independence, after 132 years of French colonization, continues to mark the history of Algeria and its relationship with France.
The wound remains sensitive, but the desire to strengthen relations is on the part of Emmanuel Macron, author of a letter addressed to his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, the President of France addressed a letter to the Algerian people, reiterating his commitment to continue his process of recognizing the truth and restoring the memory of Algerian and French people.
Although France and Algeria have experienced many difficult diplomatic periods since Algerian independence, relations have heated up in recent months, and the heads of state of the two countries declared on June 18 that they wanted to further deepen their relationship.
How is this new warming in Franco-Algerian relations understood? As always, in the field of international relations, many interpretations are possible. Keep in mind that we are in a time where many countries are repeating their past to emphasize or strengthen the bonds of friendship with other countries while pursuing a geopolitical goal (military, political, economic or ideological). Thus, after the independence of Algeria, the USSR expressed its support for Algiers and relations between the two countries remained at a high level, even after the disappearance of the Soviet empire.
However, in the current context of the war in Ukraine and the European boycott of Russian gas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent an official invitation from Vladimir Putin to Algiers on May 10 to his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, to make an official visit to Moscow. Speaking of bilateral relations, Sergei Lavrov stressed that Russia and Algeria have long been sincere and sincere in maintaining relations and that the two countries are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year, corresponding to the proclamation of independence in Algeria. With his Algerian counterpart, he said interest had been shown in developing these relations at the political, economic and commercial levels, as well as in military, cultural and scientific cooperation. Russia intends to renew its agreements, announcing the interest of Russian companies in establishing cooperation with Algerian operators in the field of energy and natural resources (Algeria, the leading exporter of gas, supplying approximately 11% of the gas consumed in Europe, compared to 47% for Russia). Also, on April 18, Vladimir Putin met with Tebboune to discuss OPEC coordination and the situation in Ukraine.
Many countries, including France, seeking to reduce their reliance on Russian supplies since Russia’s military offensive on Ukraine returned to Algeria, a country allied to Moscow but whose capacity to increase its exports is very limited.
For Paris, it was about acquiring land in terms of land investment in Algeria, while Moscow was increasingly losing influence in the foreign economy due to economic sanctions and its war effort. . But for Macron, it’s also a question of resistance from China, which has become Algeria’s main trading partner. Algeria has also moved closer to Turkey by developing its military cooperation with Russia.
The first, the situation is good for Algeria. The rise in the price of hydrocarbons due to the war in Ukraine is the mechanical bailout of the coffers of a country with the third largest oil reserves in Africa (behind Libya and Nigeria). The breath of fresh air offered by these future revenues – estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at 58 billion dollars by 2022 (i.e. 54 billion euros) – is a relief for the Algerian government at a time when the regime is trying to restore. based on it after the turmoil of the Hirak protest movement in 2019 and 2020.
In addition, Europe’s search for Russian gas alternatives has strengthened Algeria’s strategic profile on the region’s landscape. Increasingly gay, Algiers seeks to present itself as a “reliable” partner, according to official rhetoric, especially in Italy, where it reflects their friendship. Algeria, which now accounts for 11% of Europe’s gas imports, is set to strengthen its status as a long-term supplier.
There are so many reasons for the French to come back to the Algerians and give new impetus to relations between the two countries at a time when, like during the Cold War, the international scene has become a huge chessboard where States count each other and determine their positions.
Frederic Mertens de Wilmars/The Diplomat
Professor and coordinator of the Degree in International Relations at the European University of Valencia.