ORAN, Algeria (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is meeting would-be Olympic break-dancers Saturday and visited an Algerian record store celebrated by a famous DJ, a feel-good interlude during a trip to Algeria dominated by delicate diplomacy.
Both stops were seen as part of Macron relying on young people to pitch Franco-Algerian relations forward after decades of tensions over colonial-era wrongs and related disputes since Algeria’s hard-won independence in 1962.
The French leader visited Disco Maghreb, an iconic record store in the western Algerian city of Oran and a recording label for artists who perform traditional Rai music. Franco-Algerian artist DJ Snake has helped bring attention to Disco Maghreb and Rai rhythms.
Macron is also watching a performance by Algerian break-dancers who hope to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where breakdancing is making its debut as an Olympic sport.
Macron is expected to wrap up his three-day trip to Algeria later Saturday by signing a joint declaration with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
On Friday, Macron promised France would become more flexible in issuing visas to citizens of Algeria after a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries over the issue last year. He and Tebboune also agreed to form a joint commission of historians to examine their countries’ past, from the beginning of French colonization in 1830 to Algeria’s independence.
Economic cooperation is a major part of the trip. Algeria is a key supplier of gas and oil to Europe, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has reinforced the North African nation’s role as European countries seek alternatives to Russian energy.
Macron’s office said he would also raise human rights concerns. Algeria has seen a creeping crackdown on dissent since pro-democracy protests in 2019, and activists criticize a system of governance that views dissidents as criminals and does not allow free speech.