The war in Ukraine has forced Europe to look for new energy partners in order to reduce its dependence on Russia. Algeria has emerged as a potential ally in this area and has reached agreements with countries such as Italy. However, despite Europe's need to find new markets, many analysts have warned about Algeria and its potential use of gas to achieve its political goals.
Recently, one MEP has also warned about Algeria's "use of energy supplies as a political weapon", which she said "has direct consequences for EU citizens".
Susana Solís Pérez, from the Renew Europe group, asked the European Commission whether it continues to consider Algeria a reliable partner in terms of energy supply. She also asked the European institution whether it considers the possibility that Algeria "is acting at Russia's behest to aggravate the energy crisis".
Solís Pérez recalls that, after Algeria broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in August 2021, the government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune decided not to renew the contract for the operation of the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline (MGE). This pipeline, which links Algeria with Spain and Portugal via Morocco, cost some 2.3 billion euros.
Its closure "reduced the amount of gas received by Europe and contributed to higher energy prices", she said. Solís Pérez also alluded to the diplomatic crisis between Algeria and Spain after Pedro Sánchez's government considered the Moroccan proposal for Western Sahara to be the "most serious, realistic and credible" basis.
Algiers responded to this political turnaround by increasing the price of gas supplies to Spain through the Medgaz pipeline. "This price increase has added to the dramatic consequences that the Spanish government's erratic economic and energy policies are having on the people," says Solís Pérez. Algeria also imposed restrictions on trade with Spain for almost two months.
This is not the first time the European Parliament has warned about Algeria. In mid-November, 17 MEPs expressed their "deep concern" about the "growing" ties between Algeria and Russia. They also acknowledged their "astonishment" after Algiers abstained from voting on UN resolutions condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. MEPs recalled that Algeria joined countries such as Syria in voting against Russia's expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council.
According to MEPs, these decisions demonstrate "Algeria's support for Moscow's geopolitical aspirations" as well as its "double standards". Russia is Algeria's main arms supplier, a fact also highlighted by MEPs. Algiers is "among the top four buyers of Russian arms worldwide", they add. In 2021 the two countries reached a military agreement worth more than 7 billion euros. This large sum of money, they stress, will help "the Russian war machine in Ukraine".
The links between Algiers and Moscow have also been condemned by several members of the US Congress, who are also calling for sanctions against the Algerian regime based on the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Through this federal order, Washington sanctions countries that enter into defence or intelligence agreements with certain nations, such as North Korea, Iran or Russia.
"Algeria's growing relationship with Russia poses a threat to all nations of the world," wrote Republican Lisa McClain last September in a letter to President Joe Biden signed by a group of members of Congress, including Democrats. Republican Senator Marco Rubio has also pressed the administration to pass a package of sanctions against Algiers.