European support for Algeria’s protests finds no takers

The European Parliament’s support resolution was rebuffed by both the Algerian government and the protest leaders.
Sunday 01/12/2019
Too little, too late. European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini speaks during a Plenary session on the situation of freedom in Algeria, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 28.(DPA)
Too little, too late. European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini speaks during a Plenary session on the situation of freedom in Algeria, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 28.(DPA)

TUNIS - A large majority in the European Parliament has voted in favour of a resolution lending support for Algerian protesters who have for nine months been campaigning for change from the military-dominated regime but the effort was rebuffed by both the Algerian government and the protest leaders.

The Algerian Foreign Ministry slammed the resolution as a new attempt to bring into Algeria the type of “engineered chaos” that had already spread ruin and armed conflict elsewhere in the Arab world.

Leading protest figure and Jil Jadid opposition party head Soufiane Djilali tweeted that “the European parliamentarians used the Algerian Hirak to pander to their voters and not for the good of Algerians. Yes to the solidarity between the peoples but not at any cost.”

“If Europe wants to help Algeria, it must help it recover the stolen money,” he said.

The broad approval of the resolution by the European lawmakers November 28 came 13 days before scheduled presidential elections spearheaded by the army-backed authorities as a solution to Algeria’s worst political crisis since independence.

The resolution stated that the lawmakers “sharply condemn the arbitrary and illegal arrest, detention, intimidation and attacks against journalists, trade union activists, lawyers, human rights defenders and civil society activists as well as peaceful demonstrators taking part in the peaceful protests of the Hirak.”

They urged the “immediate release” of detainees, including 24 arrested protest figures the resolution named, and called on Algeria to change laws to end what it called persecution and harassment of rights activists and the curtailing of political and civic freedoms.

The resolution also said: “The European Union Parliament is convinced that democratic reforms and constructive and inclusive dialogue bring political, economic and social stability to Algeria which will give an impetus to build a prosperous Arab Maghreb Union which is significant for a successful cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean.”

No opposition party or protest figure in Algeria has asked for support from abroad during the nine months of protests that led to the ouster of long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika April 2, leaving the country without an elected president.

“Count only on your unity and determination to carry on with this peaceful revolution. Do not expect foreign help. A revolution succeeds only with the solidarity and unity of the people. No revolution has won when foreigners intervened in it,” the protests’ leading figure, human rights lawyer Mustapha Bouchachi, has told protesters in the streets of Algiers.

The Algerian Foreign Ministry warned the country’s partners in Europe that Algiers would re-examine its ties with the EU in the light of their future actions after the vote on the resolution, which was sent to each member of the European bloc and to the United Nations.

“The European Parliament, at the instigation of a group of deputies from diverse partisan affiliations, has arrogantly taken the liberty of ruling on the current political process in our country at this moment in time when Algerians are preparing to elect a new president in full democracy and transparency,” the ministry added in a statement.

“With this resolution, the European parliament has above all confirmed, at the initiative of the instigating deputies, that it is henceforth openly promoting their agenda of engineered chaos which had been unfortunately implemented in many brotherly countries,” the ministry said.

The Algerian ministry was hinting at bloody wars in Syria and Libya, which erupted after the 2011 uprisings in the region.

Authorities had tried to dissuade the European Parliament from voting on the resolution. Attacks on the EP’s legislative intent came from Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, the government’s spokesman, the five presidential candidates and the army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

State media reminded European states of the strong economic and security ties with Algeria and that Algiers is backed by China and Russia, “two states with huge interests in the country to defend against foreign intervention.”

“Algeria condemns and rejects in both substance and form this obvious interference in its internal affairs and reserves the right to proceed with a broad review of its relations with the whole European institutions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Gaid Salah, Algeria’s de facto leader since the ouster of Bouteflika, said hours before the European Parliament vote: “The National Popular Army, which is the protector of Algeria, will be able as always to analyse and anticipate the looming challenges. It also knows how to prepare in an appropriate manner to be ready at any time to face anyone attempting to target the homeland.”

“The Algerian people with their determination and their army with its commitment to preserve Algeria free and sovereign in its decisions do not accept any interference or diktat from no one and I insist from no one,” he  added.

Political writer Hasna Yacoub said the general’s admonition to Europeans is “full of hidden messages and the situation is serious.”

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