French President Emmanuel Macron meets athletes and artists in Algeria’s second city Oran on Saturday before concluding his visit with a “new pact” aimed at healing ties with the former French colony.
The three-day visit has aimed to turn the page on months of tensions with the North African country, which earlier this year marked six decades of independence following 132 years of French rule.
It also comes as European powers scramble to replace Russian energy imports — including with supplies from Algeria, Africa’s top gas exporter, which in turn is seeking a greater regional role.
Macron is set to visit a hilltop chapel and an iconic record shop in Oran, the spiritual home of Rai music, before meeting young people and athletes and watching a breakdancing performance.
He and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune are later set to sign “a joint declaration for a renewed, concrete and ambitious partnership”, according to the French presidency.
On Friday evening, Macron had dinner with Algerian writer Kamel Daoud and other Oran personalities.
He also announced that an additional 8,000 Algerian students would be admitted to study in France this year, joining 30,000 already in the country.
Macron had proclaimed a “new page” in relations on Thursday, after meeting Tebboune and announcing the creation of a joint commission of historians to examine the colonial period and the devastating eight-year war that ended it.
But in France, both left and right-wing politicians were angered by the suggestion.
Socialist party leader Olivier Faure noted that Macron in 2017 had called French colonialism a “crime against humanity”, then later questioned the existence of Algeria as a nation prior to the colonial period.
“The lightness with which he deals with the subject is an insult to wounded memories,” Faure tweeted.
Far right leader Thomas Menage tweeted that Algeria should stop “using its past to avoid establishing true, friendly diplomatic relations”.
Macron’s visit was not universally welcomed by Algerians either.
“History can’t be written with lies… like the one that Algeria was created by France,” read an editorial in the French-language Le Soir newspaper.
“We expected Macron to erase this gross untruth during this visit,” it said, criticizing him for a “lack of courage… to recognize his own faults his and those of his country”.