Algeria and the EU: Challenges before the elections

05-12-2018

Algeria will shortly be holding elections in April 2019 that will be crucial for its future. The country did, it is true, introduce constitutional reforms in response to the Arab Spring in the region, but whether or not President Bouteflika will have a fifth term in office is still the chief cause of the uncertainly hanging over the country. Although elderly now and in frail health, the President is still the glue binding Algeria’s political system together after its terrible civil war in the 1990s. In this context, the Algerian equation remains a complex one with three unknown factors (youth, climate and migration) that may shape short and medium-term prospects. Algeria has a high number of young people and constant growth is needed for them to find jobs on the labour market. Young people are still not particularly engaged in Algeria’s political system and little is known about their preferences. Climate warming is a second unknown: it will have major consequences for the area and will probably push both Algeria’s population and people in the wider Sahelian region towards coastal towns, making investment in sustainable urban planning and suitable public services essential. Lastly, demographic dynamics, both as regards the country’s own population and how migration affects it, constitute an important challenge for the future. These concerns place Algeria firmly in its regional context where it plays a central role in the conflicts in the western Sahara, in relation to Libya, and in the Sahel. Algeria is also a vital partner in the fight against international terrorism. The country’s economic situation still needs to be watched: Algeria’s economy is coming under pressure from fluctuating energy prices. The Algerian authorities agree that reforms are needed but they are difficult to bring in when the State is facing a fall in revenue. The European Union is Algeria’s main trade partner and the Association Agreement provides a framework for further developing trade relations. The two partners recently opened discussions on Algeria’s tariff barriers as they do not seem to be heading in the right direction.

Algeria will shortly be holding elections in April 2019 that will be crucial for its future. The country did, it is true, introduce constitutional reforms in response to the Arab Spring in the region, but whether or not President Bouteflika will have a fifth term in office is still the chief cause of the uncertainly hanging over the country. Although elderly now and in frail health, the President is still the glue binding Algeria’s political system together after its terrible civil war in the 1990s. In this context, the Algerian equation remains a complex one with three unknown factors (youth, climate and migration) that may shape short and medium-term prospects. Algeria has a high number of young people and constant growth is needed for them to find jobs on the labour market. Young people are still not particularly engaged in Algeria’s political system and little is known about their preferences. Climate warming is a second unknown: it will have major consequences for the area and will probably push both Algeria’s population and people in the wider Sahelian region towards coastal towns, making investment in sustainable urban planning and suitable public services essential. Lastly, demographic dynamics, both as regards the country’s own population and how migration affects it, constitute an important challenge for the future. These concerns place Algeria firmly in its regional context where it plays a central role in the conflicts in the western Sahara, in relation to Libya, and in the Sahel. Algeria is also a vital partner in the fight against international terrorism. The country’s economic situation still needs to be watched: Algeria’s economy is coming under pressure from fluctuating energy prices. The Algerian authorities agree that reforms are needed but they are difficult to bring in when the State is facing a fall in revenue. The European Union is Algeria’s main trade partner and the Association Agreement provides a framework for further developing trade relations. The two partners recently opened discussions on Algeria’s tariff barriers as they do not seem to be heading in the right direction.