PARTNER-ATLAS

ALGERIA

as a partner for the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Algeria have for Germany with regards to "the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world"?

In terms of area, Algeria is the largest country in Africa and a key security player in the Sahel. Algeria works intensively with the countries of the region on security issues. This is undertaken within the framework of the respective bilateral relations as well as via regional mechanisms, such as the Nouakchott Process of the African Union (AU), which supports the security policy cooperation of eleven states in West Africa, the Maghreb, and the Sahel.

In the Maghreb, Algeria sometimes sees itself as a “big brother” to Tunisia, one who is stabilising Tunisia politically and in terms of security and economic policy. This self-assessment is partly justified in that Algeria has repeatedly supported its smaller neighbour in crisis situations. On the other hand, Algeria’s relations with Morocco are extremely tense. Rabat and Algiers are involved in a conflict over the status of the Morocco-occupied Western Sahara and in border disputes that stem from the French colonial era.

Since gaining independence from France in 1962, the country has seen itself as a key player in the Non-Aligned Movement and maintained support for the anti-colonial liberation movements in Africa until the 1980s. Algeria has therefore acquired a certain status in the “Global South”. The diplomatic credibility resulting from this means that the country is a potentially influential mediator in the region’s conflicts.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Algeria willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

The fundamental aim of Algeria’s foreign and security policy is to maintain national independence and it follows the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs. Algeria is therefore extremely critical of initiatives such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of the EU or the German Reform Partnership for Africa, as it perceives them to be interfering in Algeria’s internal affairs, particularly with respect to agreements for implementing a political reform agenda. In the case of Algeria, the rejection of any external interference is not only an instrument employed by the elite to isolate themselves from external criticism, but also reflects a basic social consensus, shared by citizens who are critical of the regime.

Nevertheless, the country is interested in economic cooperation with Germany. The country’s tense economic situation and the reform agenda of President Abdelmajid Tebboune, who was elected at the end of 2019, could lead to a cautious opening for further offers of cooperation.

Only since the November 2020 constitutional reform, has the Algerian army been allowed to participate in peace-keeping operations in other countries in accordance with the principles and objectives of the United Nations, the AU and the Arab League. In principle, however, Algeria rejects military intervention by other countries in third countries. As a result,
the country is sceptical about military operations such as the French engagement in Mali, in which Germany is also heavily involved.

However, the example of Mali also shows that Algeria has deviated from its basic principles in the event of an immediate threat to its own interests: the country opened its airspace to the French Air Force in order to allow France to take military action against Islamist forces that had taken control of northern Mali and who were also responsible for an attack on the Algerian gas production facilities near In Anémas.

Based on its own experience of the Algerian civil war in the 1990s, in which some 200,00 people died, the country is concerned with counteracting the emergence and spread of jihadist forces in Algeria,
and it will therefore continue to involve itself in the international fight against terrorism.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Algeria's current cooperation in this area?

Although Algeria is only marginally present in Germany’s political debate, the country is recognised for its role in the international fight against terrorism and for its initiatives toward security policy stabilisation in the Sahel region. The country is seen as a potential mediator in conflict situations.

Within the framework of the “Berlin Process”, which the German Federal Government, in cooperation with the United Nations, initiated in September 2019 to end the conflict in Libya, Algeria was involved as one of the few countries not playing a negative role in the conflicts within Libya, and was seen as a partner in providing institutional support for this diplomatic initiative. After the Berlin summit in January 2020, Algeria organised a follow-up conference for Libya’s neighbouring countries.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Algeria in this area?

In view of the above challenges, the potential for foreign and security policy cooperation between Germany and Algeria is considerable and is viewed as significant by both sides. However, it will require further work to realise that potential.

Cooperation with Algeria on the basis of Algeria’s self-image as a mediating power in the region is possible in principle, but it will continually encounter difficulties in practical political coordination if initiatives are perceived as being led from outside. For example, this is evident in the case of the French-led G5-Sahel initiative, which is intended to enable five Sahel states to deal with the region’s security policy challenges. Algeria fundamentally supports the goals of the initiative but is very sceptical about the French position and would prefer a stronger role for the AU.

In the broader international context, Algeria will not commit itself to a partnership with the western community of states and it will continue to maintain close relationships with countries such as Russia, and increasingly also China. Algiers’ assessment is that these players – leaving specific content aside – are not pursuing any normative objectives in their relations with third countries.

China, in particular, is also trying to make its mark with Algeria by providing support during the coronavirus crisis (for example by supplying test kits and protective clothing), thereby also improving its political image.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

Since February 2019, mass protests against the government – which came to a temporary end only in March 2020 due to the coronavirus-related restrictions on leaving the home – had been taking place in Algeria. It remains to be seen whether President Tebboune will manage to convert the protests into an inclusive political process that provides the country with a new basis of legitimacy. These developments should be closely followed in Germany, as they also have an influence on Algeria’s capacity to take foreign policy action. Germany should refrain from openly interfering – even if only by making declarations – in Algerian domestic politics, at least as long as the political conflict continues to be conducted largely without violence.

For Algeria, it is very important to operate internationally on an equal footing with countries like Germany. In order to benefit from the country’s potential as a mediator in the region, Algeria should be involved from an early stage in German initiatives such as the Berlin Process. Germany should also keep track of Algerian initiatives in the region and possibly provide them with political support. To this end, Germany could seek regular and closer exchanges of information with Algeria regarding the situation in the region. This approach could also be adopted by Germany’s European partners, of whom France in particular is very active in North Africa and the Sahel.

Michael Bauer is Desk Officer for the Middle East and North Africa in the European and International Cooperation Department; Holger Dix heads the KAS Office in Tunisia / Algeria.

ALGERIA

  • Population: 43,886,707
  • Capital: Alger
  • Interest: The Security and Stability of Europe, its Neighbourhood, and Regions of the World
  • Region: The Middle East and North Africa
  • Potential partner countries: Algeria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait

04 — Die Region

The Middle East and North Africa

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SAUDI ARABIA

The relevance of Saudi Arabia for Germany’s economic interests results from the country’s fundamental importance for stability and development in the Near and Middle East, the efforts to modernise its economy, and its oil wealth.

  • Population: 34,813,871
  • Capital: Riyadh
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IRAQ

Iraq has the world’s fifth largest oil and twelfth largest natural gas reserves. The country is a founding member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, in recent years, has become its second largest producer. The Iraqi government considers to further expand the oil and gas sector in the coming years, thereby increasing production capacities even more, although experts as well as members of the government call for diversifying the Iraqi economic and energy sector.

  • Population: 40,263,275
  • Capital: Bagdad
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ALGERIA

In terms of area, Algeria is the largest country in Africa and a key security player in the Sahel. Algeria works intensively with the countries of the region on security issues. This is undertaken within the framework of the respective bilateral relations as well as via regional mechanisms, such as the Nouakchott Process of the African Union (AU), which supports the security policy cooperation of eleven states in West Africa, the Maghreb, and the Sahel.

  • Population: 43,886,707
  • Capital: Alger
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TUNISIA

Secularisation and modernisation have shaped Tunisia’s policies since independence in 1956, especially under the leadership of then President Habib Bourguiba, and continue to have an impact today. Recent representative surveys show that Tunisians feel that they belong first and foremost to their country, then to Islam, and only to a much lesser extent to the Arab world. A clear majority, especially in comparison to the neighbouring countries of Libya, Morocco, and Algeria, favour the separation of state and religion.

  • Population: 11,824128
  • Capital: Tunis
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