The consequences of international feuds are causing the latest tensions between Spain and its Mediterranean neighbor Algeria. With oil prices rising as Russia withholds its reserves from many European nations, Algerian oil is becoming many nations’ lifeline, nations like Morocco. However, because of the ongoing dispute in Western Sahara, Algeria froze all gas exports to Morocco, leaving Rabat in a predicament. In 2020, the north-African nation imported nearly $410 million worth of oil from Russia; left without imports from Russia or Algeria, Morocco is in a perilous situation, and has looked to Spain for help.
Spain now finds itself caught in the middle of a dispute that they ironically created. After the Spanish gave up most of its North-African land in 1958, Morocco claimed the portion now called Western Sahara, something that many Saharawis, Mauritanians, and Algerians saw unfit. Nowadays, Western Sahara remains a disputed territory, one in which the Polisario Front independence movement — a movement backed by Algeria — is actively fighting Morocco's claims.
Spain also imports Algerian gas, which in fact, composes more than one-third of its total gas imports. With Morocco looking for a gas ally in Spain, Algeria is threatening to halt exports to the European nation as well. Morocco approached Spain with plans to buy Spanish gas originally bought from Algeria, which would be processed in a Spanish facility and sent back to the African continent via an unused pipeline.
The news of this ruffled feathers in Algeria, leading the Algerian minister of energy to release a statement on April 27th in which he said that Spanish exports of gas originally obtained from Algeria “could lead to the breaking of the contract.”. Fearing this, Spain's ministry of energy swiftly stated that Madrid had no intention of breaking the contract, and would thus not be reselling its Algerian oil to Rabat.
With Spain putting its Moroccan export plan on hold, tension continues to rise in both Spain and its north-African neighbor. The Spanish government must balance their need for gas in an increasingly expensive gas market and their stable relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. With the Spanish owning Ceuta and Melilla, two small territories on the African continent surrounded only by the sea and Moroccan territory, they must keep their relationship with Morocco strong. Morocco’s energy security faces future insecurity, and the country is scrambling to find an ally.
Contrastingly, Algeria is clearly in a powerful position, as it now knows just how valuable its gas is to many of its neighboring nations.
By: Luca Glickman