The European Union flew to the aid of Spain on Friday, June 10, in an attempt to ease tensions between Madrid and Algiers. Considering as “extremely worrying” the rupture of the treaty of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation which has bound the two countries for twenty years, rupture announced on June 8 by Algeria, the Vice-President of the Commission in charge of trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, and the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, signed a very firm joint communiqué with regard to Algiers.

“We are assessing the implications of the Algerian actions, including the instruction given to financial institutions to stop transactions between the two countries, which appears to be in breach of the EU-Algeria Association Agreement, they warned at l outcome of a meeting in Brussels with the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares. The EU is ready to oppose any type of coercive measures applied against a Member State”.

The response was quick. In a statement released late afternoon, Algeria’s mission to the EU deplored “the haste with which the European Commission reacted without prior consultation or verification with the Algerian government”. She denied having taken a measure to stop current transactions, and guarantees that the country “will continue to honor all its commitments” with regard to gas deliveries to Spain, “at the expense of the commercial companies concerned of assume all of their contractual commitments”. The Spanish Naturgy and the Algerian company Sonatrach have been renegotiating gas prices for weeks, and with great difficulty.

You criticize them from Podemos

In March, the left-wing government led by socialist Pedro Sanchez took the decision to support Moroccan plans for the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara – namely an autonomous status under Rabat’s control – in order to put an end to a year of estrangement with Morocco. Since then, Algeria, which supports the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, has continued to show its anger. At the immediate reminder of the Algerian ambassador in Madrid, Saïd Moussi, followed the threats of a price increase and a cut in gas exports to Spain if part of it was sent to Morocco, and numerous comments irritated. Algeria, which until November 2021 supplied almost half of the gas imported by Spain through two underwater gas pipelines, already only transports a quarter of it, since it cut off the one that crossed Morocco .

Madrid, for its part, underestimated the consequences of its geopolitical reversal on the Sahara, after forty years of displayed neutrality. The government has been content to regularly declare that Algeria is a “reliable” partner, to cut short criticism from the opposition. On June 8, in Parliament, Mr. Sanchez again insisted that the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco is the “most solid, credible and realistic basis”, without answering questions about the consequences on relations. with Algeria. The same evening, Algiers broke its friendship treaty with Spain, and ordered the professional association of banks and financial institutions (Abed) to decree “the freezing of bank domiciliations for foreign trade operations of products and services from and to Spain”.

If it remains to be seen, beyond the press releases, the real extent of the crisis between Algiers and Madrid, the wear that the affair causes on the socialists in power, criticized by all parties, including his partner of Podemos government, is manifest. “Support for Moroccan plans on Western Sahara is a huge miscalculation, the result of naive and clumsy diplomacy, which since March has mired Spain in the Maghreb trap, says Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero, specialist in relations between Spain and the Maghreb. Spain did not get much from Morocco in exchange for this concession, on the other hand it alienated Algeria, which feels in a position of strength in the context of the current energy crisis. It is also particularly courted by Italy. »