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The Foreign Policy of an Islamic Presidential Democracy.

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Introduction

In the Name of God the Merciful and the Compassionate The Foreign Policy of an Islamic Presidential Democracy Lixandru Laura-Madalina SPE II PREAMBLE When one sets to examine the foreign policy-making process in Algeria, attention is often lead astray by this country's tumultuous history, abundant of political and social strife. As stated in the Preamble of the 1996 Constitutional Law, title that the present section borrows, Algerians are a free people, "decided to remain so". Algeria is seen, through their eyes, and not only, as a land of "freedom and dignity". It is for this reason that a case study of the Algerian approach of foreign policy is bound to generate surprising, and often paradoxical results. The permanent features of Algeria's foreign policy have included alignment with neither East nor West, identification with the Third World, advocacy of the political and economic independence of the developing countries, and support for Arab unity and the Palestine Liberation Organization. These issues, however, fully acquire a meaning once one has a grasp of the peculiarities of the Algerian government system. To begin with, every official classification made available describes Algeria as a presidential democracy, a People's Democratic Republic, "one and indivisible". As Article 6 of the Constitution points out, "the constituent power belongs to the People, [which] exercise their sovereignty through institutions they set up, by means of referendum and through the elected representatives." Its fundamental law is the cornerstone, at least in theory, of a multiparty system which dwells upon the separation between religious institutions and state, and which subordinates military to civilian authority. In theory, by adopting the 1996 Constitution, Algeria banned parties that defined themselves by using "religious or ethical definitions". In theory, this managed to keep the FIS out of the political scene and insure a political climate that lacked Islamist movements. At a second glance, though, one is surprised to discover that Algeria rightfully earns its seat among the other Islamist states. ...read more.

Middle

Algeria's foreign policy moved towards regional concerns, away from unsustainable ideological commitment, trying to create, as they put it, a "Greater Maghrib". These efforts, which proved once more the inherent cohesion between Islamic states (former colonies), have dominated Algerian foreign policy. It unified Muslim countries under an Islamic unifying objective, one that made foreign relations with "sister countries" very productive and at times, very tensed. Achieving more concrete steps toward political and economic cooperation proved to be much more difficult because of political and economic rivalries and because of the strategic interests they had in the region. The Maghrib Permanent Consultative Committee was established in 1964, but it was marked by the very pregnant differences, and it could not reach an agreement on economic union. In the late 1980s, an accord finally established an economic and political Union of the Arab Maghrib (U.M.A.), (424). The basis for this Union was the Treaty of Fraternity and Concord, another act that denotes Algeria's treatment of other Muslim states as far as foreign policy is concerned. Signed in 1983 as a bilateral agreement between Tunisia and Algeria, the treaty had each nation pledge to respect the other's territorial sovereignty, not allowing for the support of insurrections in the other country. Diplomatic controversies were to be solved by avoiding force. The treaty was made having in mind, from one side, the Tunisian diplomatic concerns about possible Libyan ambitions, and from the other side, the Algerian desire to improve its predominant position in the region, by building a solid political confederation. The greatest significance of the U.M.A. is maybe its symbolism, as John Entelis and P.C. Naylor state in State and Society in Algeria. The North African economic union presents a potential counterpart to the European Community, "whose cooperation threatens to undermine the position of Maghrib exports and migrant workers". Political cooperation has presented a means of keeping control over the rise of Islamist radicals, who in the early 1990s were challenging the political regimes in most if not all of the North African nations. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the early 1990s there were numerous francophones in Algeria, which created a tremendous cultural overlap. Algeria and France share a cultural background that transcends diplomatic relations, which has persisted throughout periods of disappointment and strained relations. Over time, however, the arabization of Algeria and the increasing division in society between the francophone elite and the Arab masses have mobilized anti-French sentiment. Support for the arabization of Algerian society, which includes the elimination of French as the second national language and emphasis on an arabized curriculum indicate a growing fervor in Algeria for asserting an independent national identity. Such an identity emphasizes its Arab and Islamic cultural tradition rather than its French colonial past. However, France's support for the military regime that assumed power in early 1992 indicates that the relations between the two countries remain strong. Trade links between the EU and Algeria are good. The Union takes 62.7% of Algeria's exports and supplies 58% of its imports. The trade balance is in Algeria's favour (EUR 11,250 million in 2000). Because of obvious geographic reasons, and even though all of them are non-Islamic (taking into consideration the fact that Islam plays no active role in the governing system of Turkey) Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey share a privileged position in Algerian foreign relations. The economic and strategic significance of Algeria as a geographically adjacent and continentally prominent nation are relevant to the foreign policies of the Mediterranean nations. Algeria's relations with France have been complicated by confusing emotional and cultural complexities. Meanwhile, its relations with the other Mediterranean countries have been primarily driven by economic factors. Both Spain and Italy have become substantial importers of Algerian gas. Due to all the varied business relations that were established, beginning with the latter 1980s, Algeria has devoted increasing attention toward regional concerns, making the geographical proximity of the Mediterranean nations of growing importance to Algeria's diplomatic and economic relations. ...read more.

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