Algeria is one of the countries included in the European Neighbourhood Policy. For this reason, and given its importance in the Mediterranean region, the European Union has been quick to comment on the recent escalation of tension between Algeria and Spain. Brussels has called on Algiers to reconsider its decision to suspend the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation with Madrid, signed two decades ago. As the spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Nabila Massrali, has declared, the step taken by the Algerian government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune is "extremely worrying", which is why she is asking the North African country to "reverse its decision".
Josep Borrell's spokesperson recalled the importance of Algeria for the EU. "Algeria is an important partner of the European Union in the Mediterranean and a key player for regional stability," Massrali said. Because of the relevance of Algiers, Brussels is assessing "the impact of the decision" while calling on the two parties to seek solutions "through dialogue and diplomatic channels". Massrali said Brussels is ready to offer "all necessary assistance" to encourage such dialogue.
For the moment, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, is in Brussels to discuss the problem with the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for trade policy, Valdis Dombrovskis. The head of Spanish diplomacy has indicated that he is analysing the implications and scope of Algeria's decision, both at "national and European level", according to Europa Press. Once the government concludes this analysis, Madrid will give "the appropriate response", which will be "calm, constructive, but firm".
Spanish Foreign Secretary seems completely lost on Algeria response after Algiers freezes trade and banking with Spain. Waffling about a "serene" and "constructive" response. https://t.co/m72ED7lHtZ— Matthew Bennett ⚡ thespainreport.eth (@matthewbennett) June 9, 2022
Relations between Spain and Algeria began to tense after the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez recognised Morocco's autonomy proposal for Western Sahara as the "most serious, credible and realistic" solution to resolve the Saharawi conflict. Algiers dismissed Madrid's decision as a 'betrayal' and recalled its ambassador to the European country. However, the retaliation for Spain's foreign policy shift has not stopped there.
This week, in addition to suspending the Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation treaty, Algeria has frozen all foreign trade with Spain, raising fears of a possible cut in gas supplies. Indeed, at the end of April, the Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mines threatened Madrid with revoking its gas contract in the event of any change in the destination of gas supplies. State-owned Sonatrach is Spain's main supplier of natural gas, accounting for more than 40% of the country's gas imports.
A senior Algerian official revealed to local newspaper Al Shorouk that "there are other decisions to be announced later". The source explained to the newspaper that President Pedro Sánchez's statements before the Congress of Deputies were the "straw that broke the camel's back", precipitating the suspension of the friendship treaty between the two countries. During his speech in the lower house, the Spanish president reaffirmed his support for the Moroccan proposal for the Sahara, despite criticism from the other political parties.
Algerian economist Mourad Kouachi does not rule out an extension of this crisis to gas supply agreements. "Relations between Spain and Algeria will enter a phase of tension on an economic level, and Madrid is the big loser in this emerging crisis," he told Al-Arab.
Kouachi stresses that a cut in supply would be "the worst-case scenario" due to the current world energy crisis. The economist recalls that Algeria is "the most secure and stable supplier to the European market" and specifically to Spain. "Despite the rupture of relations with Morocco and the suspension of supply in the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME), Algeria has maintained its commitments with Spain", he points out. Algeria decided to unilaterally break diplomatic ties with Rabat last August due to "a series of disagreements". Subsequently, it decided to close the GME pipeline in November.
Moreover, even if supplies are not finally suspended, "Spain will lose the promising Algerian market, especially after the launch of a new investment law from which it could have benefited a lot", adds Kouachi. While Algeria is moving away from Spain, it is moving closer to Italy, with whom it has signed two packages of energy agreements so far this year.