May 30, 2023

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Macron and Maghreb, a complicated relationship!

Does France have a North Africa policy? This question is at the center of the news today, given the number of burning issues and power issues in the region involving French diplomacy. If it is not, the capitals of the Maghreb, the time has come to find it with courage and imagination.

This question arises in the context of a particular equation. Emmanuel Macron has a relationship with the Maghreb that is, if not complicated, at least apparently incomprehensible and fraught with contradictions. While his predecessors perceived France’s relations with the region as a holistic one, he developed the individual and therefore the subjective.

France and the Maghreb under Emmanuel Macron remains a story to be written. When Emmanuel Macron conquered the French and the Elysée from the age of forty, he wanted to restore relations with this region of the Maghreb, with the intensity of his youth and the power of his convictions, freed from the colonial complex. At the same time so close and so far, a new brightness.

In the end, a sign of disappointments and failures, Macron found himself having a complicated relationship with these countries and developed an empathy that was strangely unproductive.

First with regard to Algeria. Emmanuel Macron looks at this country with narrow blinks, with the ambition to leave an unprecedented historical mark in the field of memorial reconciliation. To achieve this objective, President Macron does not see this Algerian trend of turning the country into an open-air prison, dominated by a predatory and endemically corrupt economy. Freedom of the press is non-existent there and human rights violations are daily and structural.

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Emmanuel Macron also refuses to see the Algerian regime’s corrupt and abusive behavior. Its alliance with the Russians and the facilities it provides for the establishment of the paramilitary group Wagner, its alliance with the Iranian regime and its openly hostile and disruptive policy… many choices that logically cause anxiety and heartache for the French.

By expressing support for this Algerian military establishment, Emmanuel’s France, which is preparing to give Abdelmajid Deboun a second term, is deliberately ignoring Algerians’ desire for access to democracy and the rule of law. It comes from the cradle of Enlightenment and human rights, the pinnacle of humor and political cynicism.

The same blindness can be seen in President Macron’s uncomprehending support for Tunisian President Gais Tsai. The latter could impose on Tunisia a dictatorship worthy of the Soviet era, curtailing all freedoms, suffocating the country under an infernal yoke, provided French diplomacy was not unduly offended. Under the pretext that Qais Syed’s iron fist and his policy of liberal killing are preventing Annahda’s Islamists from returning to power, all options are allowed to him.

Despite all the abuses of President Qais Syed, which have sparked angry criticism in Europe and the United States, Emmanuel Macron remains one of the Tunisian regime’s few advocates, particularly with international financial institutions. In the long run, this will become unacceptable to French diplomacy, especially as the trend towards hardening the Tunisian regime has reached a point of no return.

As for Morocco, which is in full economic expansion, its institutional democracy and rule of law firmly established, Emmanuel Macron’s France has decided to export its bad mood and its cold relations. Emmanuel Macron, at the request of the Moroccan authorities, under the pretext of refusing to move the lines of his policy on the Moroccan Sahara, he is voluntarily undermining the precious partnership between the historically friendly countries. For Paris, as for all European capitals, Morocco has positioned itself as a key country in the fight against illegal immigration, drug trafficking, the war against terrorist organizations and organized crime.

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A sign of this strained relationship between Rabat and Paris was the inability of the two countries to set an agenda for the French president’s state visit to Morocco. High-level political dialogue has stalled and the prospects for ending the crisis are unclear in the short term.

So these are undoubtedly poor choices made by Emmanuel Macron regarding the Maghreb countries. Unconditional support for an incendiary and independent Algerian military regime, unexplained aid to a Tunisian regime that creates poverty and instability, and cold relations with Morocco, the only Maghreb country with promising prospects and constructive potential.