Algeria still maintains a blockade of trade with Spain several days after the Government assured that the Maghreb country was backing down. The Commercial Office of Spain in Algiers considers it impossible, in an official note, that Spanish companies can export to that country under current conditions and the Ministry of Industry confirms that since last Friday, when the Government interpreted that Algeria was unblocking trade, “There have been no operations.” At the last minute, the French Minister for European Affairs, Catherine Colonna, entered the scene, who in an unusual gesture, made public that she had spoken about Spain with her counterpart Ramtane Lamamra outside the Sánchez government, but the result is that she puts herself in profile . Instead of reproaching the Algerian for the suspension of trade with Spain, she limited herself to pointing out, according to an official statement, her desire for “good relations between our European partners and the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean.” And to show “confidence that dialogue will allow us to face common challenges.”
According to the aforementioned Spanish commercial office, Algeria has only suspended the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborhood and Cooperation with Spain “which does not include commercial issues” thus theoretically avoiding confrontation with Brussels. But it adds that it maintains the order of June 9 to the Algerian bank to “freeze direct debits for the payment of foreign trade operations (import and export) with Spain.” And, according to the commercial office, as “in Algeria all import operations of goods and services require direct debit”, this measure “would make it impossible for exports from Spain to Algeria from June 9”. It is, in his opinion, a “discriminatory measure against Spain.” “Operations must necessarily go through the Central Bank of Algeria, so the latter has the power to block any payment or collection,” he stresses, showing how Spanish companies are left at the mercy of discretionary decisions by the Algerian authorities.
In addition, “in the case of products intended for sale without transformation, the direct debit must be made at least 30 days before the shipment of the merchandise and for an amount of 120% of the invoice”, so it is risky for companies to try operations in the current diplomatic crisis. On the other hand, Algerian gas sales contracts are not affected as they do not require direct debit.
“If it is verified that the obstacles to trade with Spain and, therefore, with the European foreign sector persist, the EU has a wide range of instruments to deal with the coercive measures of third countries”, emphasizes the Minister of Industry Reyes Maroto. However, she does not claim retaliation from the European Commission: “We always favor dialogue as a means of resolving differences.”
The first vice president, Nadia Calviño, asked Algiers on Monday to withdraw this decision and pointed out that it is carrying out this attack under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I see Algeria more and more aligned with Russia,” she declared on Catalunya Radio. “I have been observing for a long time an alignment of Algeria with the positions of Russia (…) I hope that Algeria reconsiders its position and the declarations that it has been making because it is clear that Spain is part of the EU and that it has given a very clear, forceful and immediate response, leaving no doubt that trade policy is a common policy of the EU.
However, Algeria did not detect pressure this Monday from the main country of the EU: Germany. The number two of the German Foreign Ministry, Katja Keul, traveled to Algiers in the middle of the clash between this country and Spain and the High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, to sign new cultural and scientific cooperation agreements and even talk about “the consolidation of the Association between Algeria and the European Union”, according to a statement from the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This agreement is precisely the one that the Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, considers has been violated by the banking blockade of trade. Borrell also pointed out that he may have raped him.
Keul, a Greens militant in the German coalition, assures that he has traveled to Algeria because “it is a key actor in the resolution of regional problems in North and West Africa. Therefore, it is important for me to intensify the political dialogue. During my trip I will speak in particular about the political and security situation in the Sahel. With a high-level business delegation, I will also offer the Algerian government even closer cooperation in expanding our energy relations,” he said in an official statement signed last Friday, two days after the trade blockade against Spain was transcended.
If Calviño is right that Putin is pitching Algeria against the Europeans, the Russian does not seem to have an interest in two important NATO countries like Germany or Italy. The Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, started last April in Algiers, already with the war in Ukraine underway, a 50% increase in the supply of Algerian gas as an alternative to Russian.
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