ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he has agreed with his Algerian counterpart to work to combat illegal immigration while ensuring more flexible ways for the North African country’s nationals to come to France legally.
Macron’s comments Friday came during a three-day visit to Algeria meant to reset relations between the two countries, after a major diplomatic crisis last year broke out over the visa issue.
Tensions were heightened by a French decision to slash the number of visas issued to people in North Africa, including Algeria, because governments there were refusing to take back migrants expelled from France.
Both countries resumed cooperation in December.
Speaking to reporters in Algiers, Macron acknowledged the “sensitive” issue was discussed until late the previous night with President Abdelmajid Tebboune, during a meeting and a dinner at the presidential palace.
“We share the same will” to implement policies combating illegal immigration and trafficking, Macron said. That includes being “more efficient” in sending back to Algeria people illegally staying in France, he said.
France wants to have “a much more flexible approach” on providing visas to families of French-Algerian dual nationals, artists, sportspeople and entrepreneurs, he added.
Asked about whether he discussed human rights issues with Tebboune, Macron said that “we discussed very freely about everything,” but did not provide details.
Human rights activists criticize Algeria’s system of governance that views dissidents as criminals and doesn’t allow freedom of speech.
Macron said France wants to strengthen its economic partnership with Algeria. The country is a key partner in providing gas to the European continent, a status that has been reinforced amid the war in Ukraine.
France relies on Algeria for about 8% of its gas imports. No new contract was expected 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.
Macron, the first French president born after the end of the war in 1962, has promised a reckoning 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 who will examine the past from the beginning of the French colonization in 1830 to Algeria’s independence.
Macron was to have another meeting with Tebboune Friday to discuss peace and stability in the region. He was also scheduled to go to Algiers’ Great Mosque later in the day day, before heading to Oran, the country’s second largest city.