EU: crucial Algeria listens to 'people's aspirations'
ALGIERS - A European Union commissioner said Monday it was crucial the Algerian government listened to the "aspirations of its people", as popular uprisings shake the region.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule praised the Algerian government for lifting a state of emergency in February and pledging reforms.
"It is indeed crucial to listen to the aspirations of the Algerian people, aspirations they have made clear since the beginning of this year," he told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.
"The EU welcomes the announcement regarding the pulling of the state of emergency and upcoming reforms. We hope they will respond to the aspirations of the Algerian people," he said, after arriving for a two-day visit.
Fule said the EU was also adjusting its relations with countries shaken by uprisings that have swept the Arab world since protesters in Tunisia forced president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to quit power in January.
"There are historical changes in this part of the world," he said, stressing the EU's "full support toward Algeria and Algerians".
Protests in Algeria intensified at the start of the year, with riots during demonstrations against the high cost of living leaving five dead and hundreds wounded.
Since then scores of political and social movements have emerged across the country.
The government lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency on February 24 and announced a series of political reforms that will be subject to consultations from May 21.
They include a modification of the 1996 constitution and a revision of electoral law.
The government has also increased public service salaries by up to 70 percent, with the rise backdated to January 2008.