Spain to give a ‘constructive, but firm’ response to Algeria after trade freeze
By Fernando Heller
Madrid will respond soon in a constructive but firm way to Algeria after the country announced a temporary freeze of its foreign trade relations with Spain, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said on Thursday.
Algeria announced Wednesday (8 June) the immediate temporary suspension of its 2002 friendship treaty with Spain over Madrid’s policy shift on the sovereignty of Western Sahara as part of a deal to normalise diplomatic ties with Morocco, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
A statement from the Algerian presidency said Spain had embarked on a campaign to justify its new policy on Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco but disputed by the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi independence movement backed by Algiers. The statement added that Spain had abandoned its legal, moral and political obligation to its former colony.
Albares stressed on Thursday that Spain is carefully analysing the consequences of Algeria’s decision and will give a concrete response soon, having in mind Spain’s geostrategic and economic interests in the region, EFE reported.
Spain imports 32% of the gas it consumes from Algeria. Algeria and Spain also closely cooperate to control illegal migration flows from the African country to the EU via the Iberian country.
Meanwhile, the Spanish government mulls the possibility of denouncing Algeria before the EU, according to government sources quoted Thursday by El Pais.
Spain’s foreign ministry believes that the unilateral freezing of trade relations with Spain may violate the 2005 Euro-Mediterranean Agreement, which established a preferential association regime between the EU and Algeria, the Spanish daily reported.
On Thursday, the European Commission called the suspension by Algeria of its Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation with Spain “extremely worrying”, and urged the North African country to reverse the decision.
“We appeal to Algeria to reverse this decision,” European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer told the institution’s daily press conference.
Algeria’s decision to suspend the treaty of friendship with Spain comes in response to a recent pact agreed between Madrid and Rabat, which Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended in parliament on Wednesday (8 June).
The head of the Socialist Party-led minority government said the deal to settle a diplomatic dispute was important and required compromise.
Spain-Morocco relations hit a low in May 2021 when thousands of migrants stormed Spain’s North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco. The crisis occurred shortly after the Spanish government granted medical care to Polisario Front leader Brahim Gali, whose movement is based in refugee camps in southern Algeria.
“We do not accept talk of Ceuta and Melilla being occupied cities because they are Spanish territory, European, internationally recognised,” Sánchez said. “But we also have to understand that Morocco warrants the same consideration when we speak about the issues that concern them”, he added.
Sánchez repeated his support for a Moroccan proposal to resolve the conflict by offering Western Sahara a degree of autonomy.
This position is not shared by the junior partners in his coalition government, left-wing Unidas Podemos (United We Can).
“Spain has not disregarded the cause of the Sahrawi people,” the prime minister also said.
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