The Hirak — Algeria’s recurring Friday protests asking for fundamental change — is now a year old. Neither meaningful change nor unabashed repression proceeds from the Algerian administration. Meanwhile, protestors struggle to find an authentic and compelling leadership.
The European Union (EU), its closest territory only 150 km away, has responded in measured terms. On Nov. 28, 2019, a European Parliament resolution criticized the Algerian administration’s arbitrary and unlawful arrest of protestors and called for the release of those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The resolution also called for a peaceful and inclusive political process.
While the practical effect of this resolution is imperceptible for now, it is notable that the EU’s calls for democratic reform are framed in economic terms that emphasize the benefits of greater economic integration between the states of the Maghreb. Signaling its practical intentions for social justice, the EU is attempting to walk a fine line between upholding its democratic values, which includes respecting the will of the Algerian people, and maintaining its relationship with an Algerian administration sensitive to external criticism.
The EU has reason to be cautious. Today, trade between the EU and Algeria is worth around $50 billion, the largest figure for North Africa. If meaningful economic and political change is managed in Algeria, the possibilities for enhanced trade and economic integration are enormous. However, if things go badly in its transition, the consequences are likely to be dire for Europe, in terms of both its interests at home as well as those in the Maghreb and Africa.
So, what opportunities do the ongoing changes in Algeria present for enhancing economic integration in the long term?…Read full publication at MEI