Albares guarantees gas supply but his trip to Algeria complicates relations with Morocco

The Foreign Minister’s trip to Algeria leave good news and bad news. The first: Jose Manuel AlbaresAfter his return, he assured that Spain will have a sufficient supply of gas from the African country.

“I have received the guarantee, as well as his commitment, to satisfy the demand,” his department explained, without much further detail, in a statement released this Thursday night.

The bad news: the Madrid-Algiers rapprochement has intensified the historical rivalry between Morocco and its neighboring country. AND the growing tensions between them they threaten to splash —Or, rather, splashing again — to Spain.

According to the Strategic Reserves Corporation (Cores), currently, about 45% of the natural gas that our country imports comes from Algeria, which in recent weeks threatened to interrupt the flow of one of the two gas pipelines – the so-called Maghreb-Europe – that supply it to the Iberian Peninsula. This pipeline crosses Moroccan territory, a country that takes around 7% of the fuel as tolls.

And with the suppression of this supply, the renewal of the contract signed with Naturgy and other European energy companies that will expire on October 31. Precisely, representatives of this company and delegates of Enagas They have accompanied the Minister of Foreign Affairs on his official visit to Algiers.

As an alternative solution, in recent months, the Algerian government had offered to compensate for the volume that Spain would no longer receive, sending it via ships loaded with liquefied natural gas. However, recently, part of this supply has been diverted to Asian countries —Mainly China—, new and fierce competitors in the fight for Algerian hydrocarbons.

So far this year, 19 fewer vessels have docked in Spanish ports than in the same period in 2020.

Despite all this, Albares, in statements in French during his official trip, after meeting with his counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, and with the Algerian President, Abdelamadjid Tebboune, has ruled out a hypothetical energy crisis in Europe during winter, which would make prices even more expensive.

Algeria vs. Morocco

But, as if it were a set of communicating glasses, Spain’s rapprochement with Algeria seems to inevitably lead to a distancing from Morocco.

From the Cold War -Both countries faced each other between 1963 and 1964, the Moroccans as related to the United States and the Algerians, in the Soviet orbit, the Alawite kingdom and the North African republic, independent from France since 1962, maintain a geostrategic tug of war whose ups and downs echo in southern Europe.

Among the recent ones, the main reason – not the only one – that the conflict remains entrenched is the position dura of Morocco on Western Sahara: King Mohamed VI refuses to accept any dialogue that does not fully recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the area.

‘Caso Ghali’

Spain is no stranger to this conflict. Not only because of commercial issues like this or because of its geographical location, factors that are also relevant. The last reason for friction was the reception of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front —The political and armed wing of the Saharawi movement, radically opposed to the Moroccan Crown—, on April 18, from Algeria.

What the Government of Pedro Sánchez claimed as “a humanitarian response to a humanitarian problem” was translated into the largest avalanche of immigrants over Ceuta, after some 10,000 people crossed, just 24 hours after the arrival of the Polisario leader, a border poorly guarded by Morocco.

In this way, the Alawite monarchy sent a strong and clear message to Spain. It remains to be seen whether the strengthening of commercial ties between Madrid and Algiers provokes a response from Rabat. A procedure – the enlistment in bilateral relations by Morocco – that would be the usual one in this historic diplomatic and commercial conflict.

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