Djamel Eddine Bouabdallah, President of the Algerian-Spanish Circle of Commerce and Industry: "During this week the Algerian government will unblock trade relations"

The Algerian businessman vindicates the links between Madrid and Algiers and anticipates an early resumption of operations
Djamel Eddine Bouabdallah

PHOTO/ATALAYAR  -   The President of the Algerian-Spanish Circle of Commerce and Industry, Djamel Eddine Bouabdallah, has said that the Algerian government will unblock trade relations with Spain

The U-turn undertaken by the Spanish government on the Western Sahara issue, describing the proposal for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty as the 'most serious, realistic and credible' basis for resolving the dispute, ratified by President Sánchez from the rostrum of the Congress of Deputies, triggered an angry response from the Algerian government, which decided to freeze the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness, an agreement that governed bilateral trade relations. Only the intervention of the European Commission made Algiers back down and it is now considering backtracking.

Question: Why did Algeria decide to suspend the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness with Spain? What are the reasons?

Answer: "It is a political issue. Each country has its interests and each country wants to defend its interests. I believe that Algeria is playing a role in order to mark its political position with regard to the Maghreb. Algiers believes that Spain's new position will create more risks for it in the region".

Q: So you are responding to the change of position on Western Sahara?

A: "That's right. Algeria considers that this new position adds another threat to the region, because the country has practically all the hot borders. Libya, Mali, Niger and of course Morocco. Algiers has serious problems at the border level.

Q: Do you consider that the suspension of the friendship treaty affects the EU-Algeria Association Agreements as Brussels claims?

A: "The European Union denounces the freezing of trade, arguing that the framework of the Association Agreement should not freeze trade with a European country. But Algeria considers that these issues can be negotiated bilaterally, without involving Brussels".

Q: The Spanish government has claimed that Russia is behind the decision taken by Algiers.

A: "I don't think so, because the amount of trade between Spain and Algeria is more important than relations between Russia and Algeria. Therefore, I don't think there is any influence from Moscow. We are talking about a trade volume of more than 6 billion per year, according to 2021 figures. This will be less in 2022 as a result of Spain's decision to reduce gas imports from Algeria in favour of other suppliers such as the United States or Qatar. But it is very expensive gas, or at least more expensive than Algerian gas. The game is at this level. We will see in the future, in my opinion Algerian gas is the most convenient for Spain".

Q: How do you explain then that Spain has reduced its gas imports from Algeria?

A: "I think it is in Spain's interest to diversify its gas supply, a decision that could have several reasons. It is a classic procedure, countries do not want to import from a single source. But I think Spain will buy Algerian gas again in the future, because it is cheaper than the others.

Q: Are gas supplies from Algeria in danger because of the suspension of the friendship agreement?

A: Never. It was stated by the most authoritative voice in Algeria, the President of the Republic [Abdelmadjid Tebboune], that Algeria will always maintain its commitment to gas and gas supplies. But with price increases, because the contract signed two years ago contains a clause whereby the price of gas can increase in relation to the market price.

Q: Algeria claims to be a reliable partner, is Spain also a reliable partner?

A: "Always. There is an exchange with Spain that has been built up over the long term between Spanish and Algerian companies. We are neighbours, we must not forget this, and we have ancestral relations. Between the first Spanish city and Algeria there is only a 30-minute flight. So I think we are in the same region and, in today's changing world, we have to be united and friendly to face common challenges and uncertainty.

Q: Do you think Algeria will maintain this suspension for much longer?

A: "According to my information, during this week [the Algerian authorities] are going to unblock commercial relations so that we can once again work in a natural and normal way with our Spanish friends and companies".