Hollande Seeking Markets; Visits Former French Colony Algeria
Fifty years after Algeria won its independence from France, French President Francois Hollande is visiting Algeria, on a state visit concerned with the future of the equal relations between the countries. He pointedly remarked that he is not there "to do repentance or apologize."
The last statement drew the ire of some opposition parties, including the Islamists, who denounced the visit due to "the refusal of the French authorities to recognize, apologize or offer compensation materially and morally for the crimes committed by colonial France in Algeria."
However, official Algeria has received Hollande with pomp and circumstances, including 21 gun salutes and a military honor guard. Hollande, even before assuming office, spent time in Algeria. He is a man of the left and that also recommends him to the officially socialist regime.
What the Algerians like best about Hollande is that he is not Nicolas Sarkozy - who turned the treaty of friendship with Algeria, signed by his predecessor Jacques Chirac, into a dead letter.
Sarkozy's government also took a restrictive attitude to immigration to France from Algeria and sought to change the criteria that extended preferential terms for the naturalization of Algerians.
Chirac remains Algeria's favorite president because he opposed the war in Iraq and signed the aforementioned treaty that called for a political, economic and cultural partnership.
What the Algerians are mostly enjoying is the reversal of roles between Paris and Algiers. The former colonial power is now the supplicant to oil and gas rich Algeria. France would like to increase economic penetration of Algeria that has become a booming economic market.
This is particularly true of the ailing French automobile industry that has witnessed layoffs in Peugeot-Citroen, layoffs that have tarnished Hollande's standing in French public opinion.