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Hollande stops short of apology

December 20, 2012

French President Hollande has made a speech to the Algerian parliament during a trip aimed at improving relations between France and its former colony. Their shared history has been a long-standing source of tension.

French armed soldiers are on watch round a corner in Bab-El-Oued 22 March 1962, four days after the Evian agreement.
Image: Reuters

Francois Hollande's speech in front of the Algerian parliament in Algiers on Thursday was a highly anticipated event that came on the second and final day of his visit.

Ahead of the trip, there was some speculation that Hollande might offer an apology for France's treatment of Algeria in the past. After Algeria's fight for independence began in 1954, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost before France finally gave up its colony. But while he stopped short of apologizing, he did recognize France's role in Algerian history.

Hollande acknowledges Algerian colonization in 2012

"For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a brutal and unfair system: colonization," Holland said. "I acknowledge the suffering it caused."

On Wednesday, Hollande had said he did "not come here to offer repentance or excuses" with regard to the past.

Hollande devoted a large part of his speech to discussing the strong ties between the two countries, and saying that a strengthening of economic ties would be beneficial to both nations.

To that end, Hollande has brought a number of ministers and French business leaders with him on the trip. It is expected that French car-maker Renault will sign a deal to build an assembly plant in Algeria during the trip.

Algeria's southern neighbour, Mali, was a topic of discussion between Hollande and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a meeting held on Wednesday. In the northern Mali, where Mali shares its border with Algeria, Islamist rebels have gained control.

While plans backed by France for international intervention in Mali have been criticized by Algeria, Hollande said that he and Bouteflika shared a common stance on Mali, and said that Algeria was playing an "important role" in the fight against terrorism there.

mz/hc (AFP, dpa)