The consequences of the rupture by Algeria of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbor and Cooperation with Spain and the suspension of commercial relations due to the change in the position of the Government of Pedro Sánchez for Western Sahara are still unpredictable. The Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albaresexplained this Thursday that the Executive is still studying them.
The most feared effect is that it can affect the supply or price of natural gas: Algeria traditionally sells to Spain more than a quarter of all its imports of this fuel.
But there are other issues, such as security, immigration or antiterrorist cooperation, which will be affected by the bilateral crisis.
Algeria raises its level of anger over the Sahara
Jesus Nunezco-director of the Institute for Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH), explained in La Hora de La 1 that a Friendship and Cooperation Agreement like the one Spain signed with Algeria in 2002 It is the highest level of agreements that our country establishes with states that do not belong to the European Union (EU) or NATO.
The rupture of the agreement is “the final link” in a chain that began with the withdrawal of the ambassador on March 19 and that may continue with new measures in the future. “It is a gesture of infriendship, of angerfor not having been consulted at the time that Spain decides on a change that the Government said had not occurred, but that this Wednesday it has recognized”, it abounds. “From what we see, Algeria was not adequately consulted“, Add.
“It is a gesture of unfriendliness, of anger, for not having been consulted about the turn towards the Sahara“
Núñez believes that, “except for a secret clause, we begin to see the negative consequences of that shift without seeing the positive ones, not only in the position of Algeria, but with Morocco. You don’t see a benefit or a real change beyond the return of the Moroccan ambassador.”
“The relationship is tense, a crisis has opened with Algeria“, confirms to RTVE.es Ignatius Chairman, journalist, former correspondent in the Maghreb and expert in the area. “It is a serious problem, but different from the crisis with Morocco. In this case, the pressures are economic,” she added.
Spain, waiting for gas
A source from the financial sector explained to Efe that the circular transmitted by the Algerian Professional Association of Banks and Financial Establishments (ABEF) affects all commercial transactions with Spain. “Everything that is a finished product intended for resale, raw materials for local production, etc. will be affected by this decision,” the source assured, despite the fact that it is only a “suspension” of exchanges.
Algeria is Spain’s second largest trading partner in Africa, after Morocco. Our country was the destination of 9.8% of Algerian exports in 2021, while imports of Spanish products accounted for 6.2% of the total, according to the Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX). Algeria sells more to Italy and France, and buys mainly from China, followed by France, Italy and Germany, with Spain in fifth place.
Spanish companies buy fertilizers, chemical products or fish and sell machinery and construction material. Spanish exports totaled 2,906 million euros in 2019, 1,916 in 2020 and 1,111 in 2021.
But The star product of mutual trade relations is gas, which tips the balance in favor of Algeria: in 2021, 91.7% of exports to Spain were fuel. According to the Corporation for Strategic Reserves of Petroleum Products (CORES), 30% of the gas imported by Spain last March came from Algeriawhile in the last twelve months it was 37.5%.
However, purchases United States have increased in recent months, and in March they exceeded those of Algeria, reaching 43%. In this case it is liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas in liquid form that is transported by ship and that on arrival has to be gasified again. LNG is usually more expensive, due to the cost of transportation and transformation.
The reasons for this change of provider are diverse. First of all, the war in Ukraine has increased exports from the US and other countries to the EU to help partners dependent on Russian gas. A part of that gas passes through Spain.
On the other hand, the Spanish Government has sought to diversify its energy sources.
But the main reason is that Algeria closed the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline last November due to its disputes with Morocco and currently supplies gas through only one conduit, the MedgazTherefore, its export capacity has been reduced, and Spain has had to look for other sources. The Medgaz, which connects Beni Saf with Almería, belongs to the Spanish Naturgy (49% of the shares) and the Algerian state company Sonatrach (51%). The contract between Naturgy and Sonatrach is sealed for 10 years, but the rate is being renegotiated.
“The threat of a gas supply cut hangs over our heads – considers Cembrero – it could be the next and last step for Algeria to tighten the screws on Spain”. The journalist believes that, at this moment, Algeria could do without its Spanish client because “there is a queue at its door to buy gas, the country The one that has bet the most on this has been Italy”, and prices are high. “Algeria believes that there is a boom and that it would not have any difficulty,” he stresses.
Gonzalo Escribanoprincipal investigator and director of the Energy and Climate Change program of the Elcano Royal Institute (RIE), assures on the contrary that the consensus in the sector is that the supply will not be interrupted.
“There is a signed contract, which must be respected, otherwise there are very high penalties – he explains to RTVE.es – Algeria has always honored its contracts and the amounts signed. I don’t think that’s at risk.”
“Algeria has always honored its contracts and the amounts signed. I don’t think that is at risk“
“Another issue is negotiating prices.”, continues – Now, with record gas and oil prices, with contracts that are indexed to different prices, it is normal for the increase to be renegotiated. But that has a limit.”
Notary notes that It does not help that the negotiation takes place “in the middle of a diplomatic and commercial crisis of unpredictable dimensions”. “The ecosystem to negotiate becomes very difficult, and there are thousands of ways to add costs or complicate things. In the medium or long term, both countries are strategic partners in the energy field, interdependent. There are exploration companies there, there are electrical connections , Spain exports material for refining, there are teams and workers that have to go in and out… There are many dimensions that must be taken into account.”
The other interests: immigration and antiterrorist collaboration
The breaking of the Friendship Agreement also means suspending cooperation on issues as important as security, immigration or anti-terrorist cooperation.
Since March 30, Algeria has interrupted the repatriation of its nationals in an irregular situation, which could not be returned by the Spanish authorities. “This average has been another measure of pressure on Spain – says Cembrero – We can ask ourselves if it will do like Morocco, if it will encourage irregular immigration to put pressure on the neighborsomething that until now has not done”.
In 2020, 4,287 Algerians arrived in Spain, according to Eurostat data. Arrivals were on the rise from 2015 until reaching a peak in 2019, when they were 7,402. this same wednesday 113 migrants arrived in the Balearic Islands in small boats from the Algerian coast.
Nevertheless, there are many more Moroccan immigrants (44,940 in 2020), so cooperation on this issue with Morocco is much more important. Rabat knows this and used migrants as a weapon in May of last year, when it allowed thousands of people to pass through to Ceuta.
The same goes for the cooperation against jihadist terrorismas Cembrero points out: it is more important with Morocco, since there are more Moroccans than Algerians who have become radicalized in Spain, and the Moroccan is the most important Islamic community in our country.
Algerian collaboration can be vital to control the jihadism in the Sahelwhich does not stop growing.
“Failure of Spanish diplomacy”
José Manuel Albares has insisted that Spain wishes to maintain the best relations with Algeria and has promised a “calm and firm” response, but the truth is that the Executive has not yet closed the diplomatic crisis with Morocco when another one has opened.
Ignacio Cembrero is forceful in his interpretation of the situation. “It has been an accumulation of errors of the Government. There is a special grudge from the Algerian authorities against Pedro Sánchez. They know that what he has done with the Sahara was not a decision of the Government, but of Sánchez and his Foreign Minister “.
Jesús Núñez believes that Spain has lost the opportunity to be a stabilizing element between the two countries that matter most to him in the Maghreb. “Relations between Morocco and Algeria are broken, have started an arms race that generates more tension in the area. Spain should be a factor of calm and stabilization”.
The co-director of the IECAH considers that one can speak of a “failure” of Spanish diplomacy. “Spain has not been able to manage the issue of the Sahara: we have abandoned the Sahrawis, we skirt or cross the limits of international law because there is a process underway within the framework of the UN since 1991, we have left it and we have not obtained any type of guarantee that relations with Morocco will not are going to be submerged in arbitrariness, and we have added Algeria to this”.
Gonzalo Escribano urges to recover the policy of neighborliness. “The declarations of the Algerian officials and the decisions they are making are being very harsh, which means that the consequences are going to be important. Almost without a doubt, the declarations on the Sahara have added a very important tension, which has already been see in a commercial plane, that it begins to slide in the energetic plane, and that it is important to prevent it from going further. We must hope that the diplomatic channel can temper and prevent further tensions.”