The Government insists that it wants the best relations and remains firm regarding its position on the Sahara
MADRID, Sep. 18 (.) –
The Algerian ambassador has not returned to Madrid six months after his withdrawal following the decision of the president, Pedro Sánchez, to support the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara. The Government’s efforts have not borne fruit and even the North African country went a step further in June with the suspension of the Friendship Treaty.
Algiers did not hesitate to brand the Saharawis as a “second historical betrayal” the fact that the Spanish government changed its traditional position to now consider that the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco in 2007 is “the most serious, credible and realistic basis” for resolve the conflict. From the Executive, it has been maintained at all times that the Spanish position is in accordance with the UN resolutions and is committed to a negotiated solution to the conflict.
But without a doubt what bothered the Algerian Government the most was the way in which this turnaround took place, which was revealed not by the Spanish Executive but by Rabat when it made public on March 18 the content of a letter that Sánchez sent to Mohamed VI to leave behind the diplomatic crisis opened by the reception of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, and whose real background was the Spanish position regarding the Sahara.
Although the Government assured that Algiers had been previously notified, the Algerian Executive denied this point. Those who know the Algerian mentality and idiosyncrasy believe that Spain made a serious miscalculation when thinking that Algeria was not going to be bothered by the change of position with respect to the Sahara, since it is the main supporter of the Polisario Front’s independence thesis.
From that moment on, the crisis with the North African country has followed a script very similar to the one previously experienced with Morocco, with discretion as the flag and without revealing the contacts and steps being taken to solve it.
All the members of the Government, beginning with Sánchez and continuing with his Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, have made an effort in recent months to value the importance of the relationship with Algeria and Spain’s desire to have the “best relations” , without the new relationship with Morocco being an obstacle.
GAS AND COMMERCE AT PLAY
Initially, an attempt was also made to play down the seriousness of the crisis, which was mainly concerned with the fact that Algeria was then the main supplier of natural gas, under the argument that the country’s president, Abdelmayid Tebune, had emphasized the commitment to comply with all supply contracts and emphasizing that it is a “solid and reliable partner”.
However, the passing of the months not only did not return normality, but at the beginning of June, Algeria announced the suspension of the Friendship Treaty, wielding Sánchez’s refusal to back down on a decision that managed to arouse the rejection of both his partners of Podemos, as well as their parliamentary allies and also the opposition.
Hours later, the notification of the Professional Association of Banks and Financial Entities (Abef) ordering the freezing of direct debits for foreign trade operations of products to and from Spain was known.
The Spanish government reacted quickly by requesting the help of the European Commission, given that foreign trade powers are ceded to Brussels, and in light of the suspicion that with this measure Algiers could be breaching the 2005 Association Agreement with the EU.
Albares traveled to the community capital the following day where the High Representative for Foreign Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell, and the economic vice-president of the Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, warned Algeria of their willingness to act if it was shown that the said agreement.
However, three months later the blood has not reached the river in this area. In fact, at the end of July commercial activities were resumed, although Spanish businessmen have been denouncing in the following weeks other types of obstacles to their exports.
ALGERIA LETS WANTED BY EUROPE
Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis have placed Algeria in a privileged position. The country is one of the main suppliers of gas and oil to the EU, hence the courtship of the Algerian authorities by European countries seeking alternatives to supply from Russia.
Several European leaders have paraded through its capital, including the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, who achieved an increase in the supply of gas for his country through the Transmed gas pipeline. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also did so at the end of August, in his case with the colonial past as the main topic on the agenda, although later the French press revealed that Algeria also plans to increase gas shipments to France.
In both cases, the energy companies of the two countries – ENI from Italy and Engie from France – would have allegedly agreed to pay more for Algerian gas to the state company Sonatrach, the same company with which they have been renegotiating their contracts since October 2021. the Spanish Naturgy.
Algeria’s intention is for Naturgy to also pay more for the gas that arrives in Spain through the Medgaz gas pipeline –the GME that supplied it passing through Morocco has been closed since last November–, according to the newspaper ‘El Confidencial’, and the Spanish company would finally be willing to agree to it.
From the Government, in all these months they have been confident that Sonatrach will comply with the contracts and that there will finally be an agreement regarding its renewal, but they have made it clear that it is something that falls to both companies and in which the Executive has no paper.
In this context, Sánchez wanted to extend an olive branch to Algeria a couple of weeks ago. During his visit to Berlin, and flanked by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the Prime Minister assured that he “would love” to travel to the North African country. The wish expressed by Sánchez has been coldly received in Algiers and there has been no answer, neither affirmative nor negative.