Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell received a letter signed by 17 MEPs from 4 different parties. The text, led by the former Prime Minister of Lithuania, the conservative Andrius Kabilius, expresses the concern of the group of representatives about relations between Algeria and Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine.
The MEPs' message focuses on Algeria's complicity with Russia in the invasion of Ukraine. This complicity has been consummated through its abstention in condemnation votes in the UN General Assembly and its military and commercial relations with Russia.
Russia and Algeria are strategic partners and the relationship between the two countries has not been weakened by the war in Ukraine, quite the contrary. As the letter sent to the head of the European Commission recalls, in 2021, Algerian military purchases from Moscow amounted to 7 billion euros. By 2023, these purchases could increase to 12 billion US dollars, a new batch that Algiers and Moscow are negotiating and which is supported by the 130% increase in the Algerian military budget for that year.
The letter cites these aspects and comes at a time when Russia and Algeria are conducting joint military manoeuvres in the Algerian desert, just 50 km from the border with Morocco, in the Bechar region.
According to MEPs, financing Russia through such large purchases is a way of flouting the principles of the Euro-Algeria partnership treaty launched in 2005. According to this partnership text, the signatories are committed to respecting human rights and democratic principles. Although the text is essentially of an economic nature and a structure for trade cooperation, it also includes political and consultation aspects.
The ball was dropped in the court of the Algerian representation in Brussels. Algeria's ambassador to the EU, Ali Mokrani, wrote to MEPs and their respective heads of formation, defending his government's position.
Mokrani relies on Algeria's absolute sovereignty in deciding which countries it cooperates with and to what extent. The ambassador argues in his message that Algeria has worked for the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine and for peace, as well as positioning itself as a reliable energy supplier for Europe and a partner in many other fields.
Alongside Kabilius' signature are those of MEPs from the European People's Party and Renew. Also from the far-right Identity and Democracy and a signature from the Social Democratic Party, Raphaël Glucksmann. Most of the signatories are from Baltic and Central European countries, reflecting the strong independence of these countries vis-à-vis Algeria. With the exception of the French parliamentarian, none of the signatories come from countries of the southern or central European axis, which are much more interconnected with the Maghreb country.
Among the southern axis countries, cooperation with Algeria remains a necessity. Italy has seen its gas imports grow following the signing of several memoranda and agreements this year, in order to become independent of Russian gas. As a result of these signatures, ENI obtained interesting benefits in the form of exploitation and export permits in Algeria.
France renewed its relationship with Algiers following a state visit by Macron and subsequent visits by the Borne government to work on the dossiers that the two countries share from a political, social and economic point of view.
On the Spanish side, while the Spanish government's wink to the Moroccan kingdom on the Sahara issue, which pits Algeria against Morocco, has blown up the main cooperation treaty between the two states, Sánchez's government refuses to cut bridges with Algiers, at least for show. Foreign minister Albares continues to rely on Tebboune and Sonatrach to supply gas to Spain through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline.
Beyond the Atlantic, the United States does not seem determined to take strong measures against Algeria either, despite the increasingly pro-Russian path that Algiers is taking. Secretary of State Blinken travelled to the country in 2022 and is keeping the doors open, while several members of Congress are calling for the White House to toughen its stance against Algiers and apply CAATSA sanctions over Russian military purchases.