Posted on November 14, 2006

Europe Eases Algeria Visa Rules

BBC News, Nov. 13, 2006

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that visa procedures for Algerians will be speeded up in 15 European countries.

Mr Sarkozy, seen as a front-runner in next year’s presidential election, was speaking on a visit to Algeria.

He said the 15 Schengen zone countries would no longer consult each other before issuing visas to Algerians.

The measure is expected to cut waiting times for visas from about 15 days to between one and three days.

The Schengen zone countries agreed in 1995 that they would consult each other before granting visas to Algerians. The measure was prompted by concern about the Islamist revolt in Algeria.

The Schengen members are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

‘Crimes in Algeria’

On arrival in Algiers on Monday, Mr Sarkozy said France and Algeria should strive to put past bitterness behind them and build “a common future”.

“I come as a friend,” he said, adding: “there must be no new humiliations” to harm relations between France and Algeria.

At the weekend, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem demanded that France, the former colonial power, “acknowledge the crimes committed in Algeria” during France’s 1830-1962 colonial rule.

Every year, thousands of Africans from north and south of the Sahara make desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean and enter Europe.

The BBC’s Richard Hamilton in North Africa says Mr Sarkozy is the principal architect of a new French immigration bill which makes it harder for unskilled migrants to settle there, and abolishes their rights to remain after 10 years.

The law also requires them to sign a contract agreeing to learn French and makes it more difficult for them to bring their families to France.