Macron addresses visa issue during trip to Algeria

ALGER – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he had reached an agreement with his Algerian counterpart to tackle illegal immigration while guaranteeing nationals of the North African country more flexible ways to come legally France.

Macron’s comments on Friday came during a three-day visit to Algeria intended to reset relations between the two countries, after a major diplomatic crisis erupted last year over the visa issue.

Tensions were heightened by a French decision to drastically reduce the number of visas issued to people in North Africa, including Algeria, as governments refused to take back migrants deported from France.

The two countries resumed their cooperation in December.

Speaking to reporters in Algiers, Macron acknowledged that the “sensitive” issue had been discussed late into the night with President Abdelmajid Tebboune, during a meeting and dinner at the presidential palace.

“We share the same will” to implement policies to fight illegal immigration and trafficking, Macron said. This includes being “more efficient” in sending people residing illegally in France back to Algeria, he said.

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France wants to have “a much more flexible approach” on granting visas to the families of Franco-Algerian dual nationals, artists, sportsmen and entrepreneurs, he added.

Asked if he had discussed human rights issues with Tebboune, Macron said “we discussed everything very freely” but did not provide details.

Human rights activists criticize Algeria’s system of governance which views dissidents as criminals and does not allow freedom of expression.

Macron said France wanted to strengthen its economic partnership with Algeria. The country is a key partner in supplying gas to the European continent, a status that was reinforced amid the war in Ukraine.

France depends on Algeria for about 8% of its gas imports. No new contract was to be signed during the visit.

On Friday morning, Macron visited the Christian and Jewish cemetery of Saint-Eugene in Algiers, where he paid tribute to the French who died during Algeria’s war of independence.

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Macron, the first French president born after the end of the war in 1962, promised a settlement of colonial-era wrongs. The country was occupied by France for 132 years.

On Thursday, Macron and Tebboune agreed to form a joint commission of historians that will examine the past from the start of French colonization in 1830 until the independence of Algeria.

Macron was due to have another meeting with Tebboune on Friday to discuss peace and stability in the region. He was also due to visit the Great Mosque of Algiers later in the day, before heading to Oran, the country’s second city.

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