An MP advocates “non-governmental diplomacy” to circumvent blockages between France and Algeria

This is an implacable observation which risks further cooling the already polar relations between France and Algeria

An MP advocates “non-governmental diplomacy” to circumvent blockages between France and Algeria

This is an implacable observation which risks further cooling the already polar relations between France and Algeria. On Wednesday October 18, Frédéric Petit (MoDem), deputy for the 7th constituency of French people established outside France, and rapporteur for the opinion of the budget for cultural or influential diplomacy, presented, in front of his colleagues in the Foreign Affairs Committee, its observations on the credits allocated to the State's external action.

Like every year since he has been at the head of this mission, he chooses a country to describe the functioning of public cultural cooperation and make proposals to improve it. After Lebanon, Georgia, Israel, Palestine and even Egypt, Mr. Petit wanted to look at the case of Algeria. His report of nearly seventy pages, which Le Monde was able to consult, sheds unfiltered light on relations between these two countries.

During a trip to Algiers and Oran, from September 18 to 20, during which the parliamentarian was able to meet French diplomats and members of Algerian civil society, he was able, in fact, to note "the permanence of blockages in the bilateral relationship. Thus, he notes, “any strictly institutional approach in fact seems to come up irremediably, in Algeria, against constantly renewed obstacles which find their origin in the very organization of the Algerian State”. In his report, the MP in no way spares Algeria, with which France maintains a relationship “which appears as abundant on a human level as it is dysfunctional on a political level”.

The reasons for the “blockages”

Clearly, according to several of his interlocutors, all Paris initiatives are doomed to failure “structurally” and the agreements signed “do not bind the Algerian partner”. Only, according to him, “non-governmental diplomacy” can allow France to continue to have influence in Algeria. The Foreign Affairs Committee chose, on October 18, to follow the opinion of the rapporteur, who recommends encouraging this form of diplomacy. It is up to the French government to follow this advice. Before explaining what “non-governmental diplomacy” consists of, the MP deciphers – without language – the reasons for the “blockages”.

He first points out “the instability, illegibility and precariousness of the [Algerian] administration, including at the highest hierarchical levels”, which has the consequence of poorly identifying the interlocutors. Ministers or other officials would also hesitate to make decisions for “fear of settling scores”. Justice being the instrument most often used for this purpose.

Then, there exists in Algeria, according to Frédéric Petit, a “point of agreement in the refusal to cooperate with our country”, fueled by “elites in constant rivalry” and whose only unifying element would be “hostility to France ". This nourishes “the legitimacy” of the Algerian power in place since the war of independence (1954-1962). Especially since the “privileged position” in society of “at least 12 million Algerians” (out of 44 million inhabitants), “real or supposed” descendants of independence fighters – the State offers them significant advantages – remains “dependent on the perpetuation of an anti-French discourse”.

Finally, the MP underlines the “aggression” of French in Algeria – a word spoken during his hearing in committee – which the regime wishes to “roll back” in favor of “an Arabization with a strong political and religious content” and the 'English. He recalls several episodes, including the most recent where twenty-two private schools (“enrolling more than 10,000 students”) labeled by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), were ordered to… delabel themselves . The parliamentarian is also surprised that there is only one French high school in Algeria – compared to seventeen in Morocco –, saturated with requests.

Impossibility of peaceful political relations

On the question of memory, he notes the gestures conceded by Emmanuel Macron. He, among other things, recognized the responsibility of the State in the death of Ali Boumendjel, an Algerian nationalist lawyer "tortured then murdered" by the military, in the middle of the battle of Algiers, in 1957, but doubts the sincerity of historians Algerians to “the hardest approach”. The latter were designated by the regime to sit on a commission with their French counterparts which will have to “reconcile wounded memories” around colonization and the Algerian war. “A very institutional bilateral cooperation seems condemned to an impasse,” he writes.

If this report notes the impossibility of peaceful political relations between the two nations, all is not lost however. According to the parliamentarian, French representatives in Algeria have levers – “far from political pretenses or the exploitation of the past” – to get around these “blockages”, in particular Algerian youth, entrepreneurs and the diaspora. This is what Frédéric Petit calls “non-governmental diplomacy” or “civil societies”. In Algiers or Oran, he was able to see a whole series of actions carried out by the French services which go “under the radar”. Those in particular led by the French Institute which supports artists, writers and cultural and scientific exchange programs.

In order to promote economic exchanges between the two countries, the majority deputy insists on “the difficulties posed by the Franco-Algerian agreement of December 27, 1968 [which governs the entry, stay and employment of Algerians in France ]” whose rules are not “adapted to the mobility of entrepreneurs”. In addition, Mr. Petit said he noted that cooperation projects initiated by France, refused by Algeria, were no longer so when these partnerships are “formally initiated by the European Union”. The MP recommends that the French ambassador in Algiers should have the mission of “prioritizing European cooperation processes”. In short, France should be under the cover of the EU to continue to “deploy its tools”.

This “sensitive” and “instructive” report, as described by the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Jean-Louis Bourlanges (MoDem), echoes the declarations of Emmanuel Macron in September 2021. In front of “grandchildren » of the Algerian War, whose grandparents experienced this conflict intimately, the Head of State had described, at the Elysée, an Algerian “political-military system” which was “built on the hatred of France” and “memorial rent”. Remarks which led to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

The Algerian authorities, extremely sensitive to criticism of the nature of the Algerian regime coming from the former colonial power, are likely to not appreciate Frédéric Petit's report and to consider it as a form of interference.