The constituent meeting of the delegation was held in Strasbourg on 15th January 1998. André SOULIER was elected chair and Johannes SWOBODA vice-chair (see Annex I for complete list of Members and participants).
The delegation held meetings on 22nd and 27th January and 5th February 1998. Negotiations on the programme were conducted by the chair of the delegation with the Algerian Embassy in Brussels and the People’s National Assembly in Algiers with assistance, on behalf of the Presidency of the Union, from Mr GORDON, British Ambassador to Algiers.
The programme for the visit (see Annex II) provided for meetings with EU ambassadors to Algiers at the start and end of the mission as well as detailed talks with the People’s National Assembly. Permanent links were established with Mr Abdelkader HADJAR, chair of the Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and meetings were held with this committee, the Speaker of the PNA. Mr BENSALAH, all the political parties represented in the Assembly and the Speaker and a delegation of the Council of the Nation (the upper house of the Algerian Parliament). Two working meetings were held with the Assembly’s legal affairs committee and its finance and budget committee.
The delegation met the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr ATTAF, and the Prime Minister, Mr OUYAHIA. It also had talks with the publishers of several newspapers and the national human rights monitoring unit (ONDH). Two other associations working in this area also met the delegation. In addition, there were talks with the association of families of victims of terrorism and the collective of Democratic Women. The delegation also met the Archbishop of Algiers, the President of the High Islamic Council and the Secretary-General of the UGTA.
The visit was covered by a great many Algerian and European journalists. Most of the European media representatives (from around 100 organisations) had come to Algiers specially for the mission. The delegation had asked the Algerian authorities to be generous in issuing visas and media accreditations. Various meetings were held with the press, as well as a press conference on Thursday, 12th February at the end of the mission.
This brief summary of the programme shows that the delegation adhered to the mandate of its mission as laid down in the resolution of 18th September 1997. The prime purpose of the visit, as accepted by Mr ATTAF when addressing Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on 27th November 1997, was dialogue between the two parliaments. There were also detailed discussions with the government (one-and-a-half hours with the Prime Minister and two-and-a-half hours with the Foreign Minister). The delegation was anxious to obtain further information about the current crisis and therefore asked to be allowed to meet representatives of key groupings in civil society, which was not part of the mandate of 18th September 1997 but was nevertheless accepted by the Algerian authorities. Here, the meeting with newspaper publishers was of crucial importance. Information gathered in talks with various associations (for human rights, women’s rights, young people, trade unions and business people), as well as from the Archbishop of Algiers and the President of the High Islamic Council, was also extremely useful. The Algerian authorities sometimes had to be pressed to allow the range of participants in the talks to be widened but, reassuringly, all those to whom the delegation spoke expressed their views freely and were unsparing of the government in their criticism. Moreover, at the time of writing, nobody has been given cause for concern because of opinions expressed to the delegation even though these same opinions have been commented upon by those involved to the radio, television and press. Access to our delegation was so free that a messenger from two outlawed parties was able to reach us unhindered, speak to tworepresentatives of press agencies and depart freely before making a statement to a television channel (LCI).
The delegation would certainly have been glad to go beyond the limits laid down by the authorities and enjoy greater freedom of movement after its arrival, independently of the choice of people to whom it spoke, which was difficult to expand given the time constraints. However, it succeeded in its aim of carrying out a mission based on parliamentary dialogue as well as making important contacts with civil society. From the outset, the delegation had to comply with an agreement reached with the Algerian authorities during the first stage of negotiations on the programme. Under this agreement, there could be no attempt to make contact with outlawed movements or individuals. Whatever else may be claimed, this is the reason why the delegation, at a critical point during its visit, decided unanimously to ignore messages addressed to it through indirect channels by outlawed parties, in particular the Islamic Salvation Front. It was out of the question for the delegation to break its agreement and lay itself open to manipulation - whether in Algiers or subsequently in Brussels - when members of the banned organisations currently resident in Europe can, without any particular difficulty, meet any MEP who agrees to meet them, in Brussels or elsewhere in Europe. Political contacts are one thing, manipulation is another.
The delegation found a noticeable feature of the political climate in Algiers to be an awareness of the gravity of the situation and of the challenge posed by terrorism. On the whole, however, there was a lively atmosphere, pervaded by an urge for freedom. After many years, firstly of struggle and then of a one-party state with an entirely state-run economy, all kinds of abuse and corruption, Algeria seems to be entering a new phase. The press is extremely lively and a new generation is moving into positions of power. In this sense, Algerian political life is without any doubt at an historic turning point. No-one can say categorically that it will not stagnate as previous regimes have done or succumb to the attacks of Islamist terrorism. Neverthless, there is a serious chance of progress towards democracy.
The delegation returned from Algiers convinced that it had met an active player in this change of direction. We have already said “The Algerian Parliament is a reality - we have met it” and we still maintain this. The fact that we were able to identify the People’s National Assembly as a participant in this movement of renewal was one of the most positive findings of our mission. The official record of the debates on security issues held recently over a two-day period in the Assembly, sometimes with sharp criticism of the government, constitutes proof of this.
A democratic institutional mechanism, based on the role of the Assembly, which was elected by universal suffrage, is a development which must, for now, stifle any speculation about setting up an international committee of inquiry into human rights violations in Algeria. Neither the European Parliament nor its delegation ever endorsed the principle of such a committee or called for one to be set up. That does not mean that there are no human rights issues in Algeria. This is a topic which will have to be examined in detail at parliamentary and interparliamentary level. In the next few weeks Algeria is due to submit a report to the UN on this subject. The European Parliament referred to this in paragraph 2 of its resolution of 19th February 1998 on the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Commission. Parliament’s delegation told its Algerian counterparts that both sides should work jointly on the matter and that the question of logistical support in Europe for the terrorist movements could be examined as part of the issue. This approach is designed to eliminate suspicion of interference as well as respecting the powers of the young Algerian Parliament and showing the confidence in it which it is eager to have. Lastly, it should not be forgotten that the Algerian Parliament, which was elected only eight months ago, did not hesitate to set up a committee of inquiry into electoral fraud at the latest municipal elections in October 1997.
A breath of democracy is blowing through Algeria. It would be a grave mistake not to encourage it.
The other central concern of the mission was terrorism and the massacres. The situation is extremely grave and the security measures taken for the visit of the delegation showed this. Several MEPs wished to have greater freedom of movement in Algiers and possibly be allowed to go to the site of a massacre in the region. The authorities believed the risk was too great, although journalists present in Algiers at the same time as the delegation were taken to a village where a massacre had occurred. The Algerian authorities said their refusal was motivated by a reluctance to allow any visit which might be construed as the beginnings of an inquiry by foreign officials. Even so, there was a contradiction between this explanation and the authorisation granted to the press.
However, the big question - “Who is killing whom?” - which is often headlined in the western press, is regarded as indecent in Algeria. With one or two exceptions, all those to whom the delegation spoke said there could be no doubt about the matter. This point was also made, in emotional terms, by the highest spiritual authorities whom the delegation met, the Archbishop of Algiers, Mgr Henri TEISSIER, Father Danys GONZALES, chair of the Caritas movement in Algeria, and Mr Abdelmajid MEZIANE, President of the High Islamic Council. There was no doubt in their eyes that responsibility for the massacres lay with the terrorists. “Sectarian” groups with a fanatical and distorted understanding of the Koran, who thereby perverted the culture and teaching of Islam, were manipulating desperate young men, they said. According to these speakers, a fundamentalist campaign had been unleashed against Algeria, which had been declared by the extremists to be in a state of general apostasy.
People feel they have lost their bearings owing to the desperate economic and social situation and rising unemployment. This is what lies behind the current wave of terrorism. A climate of extreme violence has grown up. Terrorism entails a rejection of dialogue and threatens to break up the national community. In addition, the massacres lead to repressive counter measures which have so far often been ineffective and involved human rights abuses (referred to as “excesses”). The tool used for repression is the army, which is still poorly trained and ill-equipped to combat the constantly changing forms of terrorism. Hence the risky decision to resort to distributing weapons to the rural population - something which may one day result in even more widespread violence. The Algerian authorities are aware of this and said so to the delegation. They have embarked upon a race to modernise the security forces and set up regular defence units and police stations throughout the country as quickly as possible, which will gradually enable them to disarm the population. The authorities claim that the embargo on hi-tech weapons is hindering their efforts.
It was against this background that the delegation found itself facing the problem of involvement of the Islamic Salvation Front in any attempt to achieve national reconciliation. A minority of its members were keen to make contacts for this purpose but the delegation needed to avoid lending itself to any fanciful ideas of mediation and, as already mentioned. It avoided falling into a trap in this connection. At all events the delegation became certain that no efforts should be spared to restore peace. The Algerians themselves would have to decide on the conditions for a broad dialogue. On this matter, Algeria does not need to be judged - it needs help and understanding. More generally, the delegation believes that pre-conceived foreign models should no longer be imposed on a situation as complex as that facing Algerian society today.
In order to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism, Algeria needs an active partnership with the Union to enable it to improve its economic and social situation. The delegation saw there was a need for a complete overhaul of the economic and social system in Algeria and believes that EU policy should be aimed at helping to find solutions through Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. The people cannot be left in their present plight nor the young people in their state of desperation.
If help is to be given, the distinctive nature of Algerian society must be respected. In the first place, to avoid the excesses of Islamic fundamentalism, Islam and its culture must be respected. There can be no real economic and social partnership without some attempt at cultural understanding.
Algeria is of strategic importance for the EU. It stands at the confluence of the modern democratic world, as exemplified by the élites whom the delegation met in the course of its visit, and the firmly rooted traditions of the Arab-Muslim world. It stands at a crossroads. If the secular democratic model on which Algerian political society is based were to crumble, we can expect the worst for the entire Maghreb. The consequences might then be disastrous for the Mediterranean dialogue desired by the EU.
Europe, like Algeria, thus faces a major challenge of its own.
By way of conclusion, the delegation returned from Algeria convinced that it had succeeded in listening and starting to understand. This may not seem enough. However, the policy which will have to be pursued may perhaps be based on and justified by this beginning. Action must be preceded by understanding.
The delegation believes that certain measures should therefore be taken:
-parliamentary dialogue should certainly be continued, for the present under the Delegation for relations with the Maghreb Countries in conjunction with the chair and vice-chair of the Ad Hoc Delegation. The Maghreb Delegation will pay close attention to any reactions and proposals from Algerian civil society;
-a visit to Strasbourg or Brussels by members of the Algerian Parliament should be arranged before the 1998 summer recess;
-special efforts must be made, under the Mediterranean cooperation policy, the MEDA programmes and the Euro-Mediterranean agreement currently being negotiated, to decide on a list of measures to be undertaken with Algeria as a matter of urgency;
-the Algerian Government is to submit a report to the UN Human Rights Commission and this report will also be included in the interparliamentary dialogue between Europe and Algeria;
-the subject of terrorist bases in Europe will be examined with a view to devising practical measures to deal with the problem.
In general terms, the delegation noted during its visit that the European Parliament has a positive image in Algeria and that, if the dialogue continues, it will be able to fulfill a role as advocate of a broad policy for mutual understanding in the Mediterranean. The exceptional reaction to Parliament’s visit, firstly of the Algerian press and then of the international press, showed that there was a difference of perception compared to the recent mission of the Council Troika. This, we believe, shows that there is a special role for parliaments to play in speeding up the cooperation process.”
Further information: Jacques NANCY, Tel: 284.2485, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
DELEGATION AD-HOC POUR L’ALGÉRIE
VISITE A ALGER
8-12 FÉVRIER 1998
LISTE DES PARTICIPANTS
Diréction générale des commissions et délégatións
M. Antonio DUCCI, Directeur général
M. Alberto ROSSETTI, Administrateur Principal
M. Miguel TELL CREMADES, Administrateur
Diréction Génerale de Information ét des Relations Publiques
M. Jacques NANCY, Administrateur Principal
Mme Martine LIBAU, Secrétaire
- cabine francaise
M. Laurent BERNHARD
M. Michel LESSEIGNE
- cabine anglaise:
M. David WALKER
Mme Linda FITCHETT
PROGRAMME DE VISITE DE LA DÉLÉGATION DU PARLEMENT EUROPÉEN A ALGER (08-12 FÉVRIER 1998)
Dimanche 08 Février 1998
Arrivée de la délégation du Parlement européen par vol AH 1003. Accueil par M. Abdelkader HADJAR, Président de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopération et de l’Emigration.
- Déclaration á la presse.
Installation á la résidence El-Mithaq.
Entretien au Siége de I’APN entre la délégation du Parlement européen et la délégation de I’Assemblée Populaire Nationale conduite par M. Abdelkader HADJAR, Président de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopération et de l’Emigration. (Voir annexe 1: composition de la délégation de l’APN)
Départ de la résidence El-Mithaq de la délégation du Parlement européen ver la résidence de l’Ambassadeur de France. Echange de vues avec les Ambassadeurs des Etats membres accrédités á Alger.
Díner offert par la Présidence du Conseil á l’Ambassade de France.
Lundi 09 février 1998
Entretien avec la délégation du Conseíl de la Nation au siége du Conseil de la Nation. (En annexe 2 composition de cette délégation)
Rencontres avec les Présidents et des membres des Groupes Politiques représentésá l’Assemblée Populaire Nationale au siége de l’APN
Rencontre avec le Rassemblement National Démocratique (RND), M.Bahbooh
Rencontre avec le Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS), Président M. Ali Rachedi
Rencontre avec le Parti des Travailleurs (PT), Présidente Mme Hanoun
Déjeuner offert par le Conseil de la Nation (Hótel Aurassi)
Rencontre avec le Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD), Président M. Sadi
Mouvement ENNAHDA (MN), Président M. Derbal
Rencontre ave le Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix (MSF)
Rencontre avec le Front de Libération Nationale (FLN)
Retour á la résidence El-Mithaq
Point presse (Hótel El Djazair)
Diner offert par M. Abdelkader HADJAR, Président de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopération et de l’Emigration (résidence El-Mithaq).
Mardi 10 février 1998
Rencontre avec M. Ahmed ATTAF, Minister des Affairs étrangéres au siége du MAE.
Rencontre avec le Président de l’Observatoire National des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH)-(siége ONDH).
Rencontre avec la Ligue Algérien des Droits de l’Homme (LADH) (résidence El-Mithaq).
Déjeuner offert par M. Ahmed ATTAF, Ministre des Affaires étrangéres (Hótel El Djazair).
Rencontre avec l’Association des Families victimes du Terrorisme (Résidence El-Mithaq).
Rencontre avec la Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (Résidence El Mithaq)
Association des femmes
*Mme Dalila Zekal
Point presse (Hótel El Djazair)
Réception offerte par l’Ambassadeur de Grande Bretagne (Hótel Sotifel)
Mercredi 11 février 1998
Audience avec M. Ahmed Ouyahia, Chief de Gouvernment (Palais du Gouvernment)
* Rencontre avec M. Abdelkrim SIDI-MOUSSA, Président de la Commission des Affaires Juridiques, administratives et des libertés de l’APN.
* Rencontre avec M. Mohamed Laichoubi, Président de la Commission des finances et du budget de l’APN.
Audience M. Bachir BOUMAZA, Président due conseil de la Nation (siége du Conseil de la Nation).
Audience M. Abdelkader BENSALAH, Président de l’Assemblée Populaire Nationale (APN)
Rencontre avec la RAJ:
*M. Addad Hakim
*Mlle Dalila Taleb
*Mme Najet Bouda
*M. Mechraoui Mohamed
*M. Khellil Abderahmane
*Mgr Henry Teissier (Archevéque d’Alger)
*l’Abbé Dannys Gonzales
*Mme Nadia Ait Zai
*M. Meziane (Président du Haut Conseil Islamique)
Rencontre avec l’UGTA;
*M.Sidi Said, Président
Rencontre avec la CGEA:
*M. Abdellaoui Sid Ali
*M. Megalti Mahfoud
*M. Lajelat Aissa
Point presse (Hótel El Djazair)
Réception offerte par M. Abdelkader Hadjar, Président de la Commission de Affaires étrangéres, de la coopération et de l’Emigration (Hótel Aurassi)
Jeudi 12 février 1998
Petit dejeuner de travail avec les chefs de Mission Européenne
Conférence de presse á la résidence El-Mithaq
Transfert sur Aéroport Houari BOUDMEDIENE
Départ sur Paris vol AH 1004
DE L’ASSEMBLÉE POPULAIRE NATIONALE
M. Abdelkader HADJAR, Président de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopération et de l’Emigration. Chef de la délégation (Front de Libération Nationale).
M. Mohamed-Ali BOUGHAZI, Vice-Président de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopérationet de l’Emigration (Mouvement Ennahda).
M. Kamel BENKHALLOUF, Rapporteur de la Commission des Affaires étrangéres, de la Coopération et de l’Emigration (Mouvement de la Société pour la paix).
M. Salah ABBES, Député (Rassemblement National Démocratique).
Mme Saadia BOUGUETOUCHA, Député (Rassemblement National Démocratique).
M. Benamar BOUALIA, Député (Rassemblement National Démocratique).
M. Lamine MENASRIA, Député (Rassemblement National Démocratique).
Mme Aicha GUENIFI, Député (Rassemblement National Démocratique).
M. Abderrazak MOKRI, Député (Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix).
Mme Hassiba TOUAHRIA née AMOKRANE, Député (Mouvement de la Société pour la Paix).
M. Ali BENFLIS, Député (Front de Libération Nationale).
M. Sadek BOUGUETAYA, Député (Front de Libération Nationale).
M. Mustapha MAZOUZI, Député (Front de Libération Nationale).
M. Abdelouahab DERBAL, Député (Mouvement Ennahda).
M. Mohamed-Larbi BOUGUERMOUH, Député (Front des Forces Socialistes).
M. Ahmed BAYOUD, Député (Indépendant).
M. Ali MENASRIA, Chef d’Etudes.
Mlle Ouahiba MEKAOUCHF, Assistante Législative Principale.
M. Mohamed CHAIB, Interpréte.
DU CONSEIL DE LA NATION