Russia interferes with the development of relations between Europe and Algeria

The relevance of Algeria as an energy partner for numerous EU economies has grown as a result of the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine and the potential danger to European energy security.

An Association Agreement, negotiated in 2002 and implemented in 2005, serves as the foundation for EU relations with Algeria. Algeria formally said in 2015 that it was open to reviewing this Agreement. Priorities were set after the evaluation in 2017.

Algeria is a significant exports player to the EU

The EU is Algeria’s most significant trading partner. About two-thirds of its exports are bought, with the majority being hydrocarbons and mining products (93.5%) and chemicals (3.3%). Furthermore, Algeria imports machinery and transport equipment, agricultural goods and raw materials, and chemicals to rely on the economic, technical, and technological backing of the EU. The EU had 14.5 billion euros invested in Algeria as of the end of 2019.

Under the Association Agreement, the EU funds several programs in Algeria and encourages economic transition and diversification.

Yet, as it was during the Soviet era, Algeria is a preferred partner of Russia in the Mediterranean and the Maghreb. In actuality, the nation has been imprisoned in the political, economic, and diplomatic spheres of the Soviet Union since its independence in 1962.

17 members of the European Parliament wrote a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, on November 20, 2022, asking for the Agreement to be revised. The MEPs made the case that the Algerian government supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine financially, logistically, and politically.

The movement, spearheaded by Andrius Kubilius, a former prime minister of Lithuania, expresses grave worry about the growing closeness of relations between Russia and Algeria.

Algeria and the Soviet Union had been strong allies ever since the Algerian War of Independence in the 1950s. The Algerian government was backed by the Soviet Union, which saw it as a vital partner in the western Mediterranean and North African region. The nation’s politics and economy were modeled after those of Europe under Soviet rule. Following the dissolution of the USSR, Algeria failed to establish democratic and free economic frameworks. The nation continued to be a close ally of Moscow on both a diplomatic and military basis (Russia significantly supports Algiers in its demand to join BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

Russian proxy in the UN?

Algeria was one of the nations that abstained from the UN vote on March 2, 2022, which demanded that Russia immediately cease using force against Ukraine. Algeria once more declined to support the suspension of Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council on April 7. On October 12, Algeria once more declined to cast a vote in favor of the UN resolution denouncing Russia’s annexation of the regions of Ukraine it had invaded.

Three times in eight months, the Algerian government has endorsed the Russian war in Ukraine.

One of the most powerful armies on the African continent is Algeria. 

The officers have ties to Russia in several ways (studies, ideological reasons, hate of the West, etc.).

The nation frequently purchases weapons and military equipment from Russia. Despite being outdated technology by Western standards, Algeria can outperform any competition in the area because of its equipment. The Algerian army also takes part in Moscow military drills, as it did in eastern Russia last September.

Tebboune’s government is supported and shielded by this connection to Moscow. In a combined military exercise close to the Moroccan border, Russian servicemen also took part.

The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria ranks third worldwide in terms of the purchase of Russian military hardware. A new military pact is currently being drafted between Moscow and Algeria.

The willingness of the two allies to increase their military cooperation is not kept a secret.

On February 27, 2023, Sad Chengriha, the chief of staff of the People’s National Army, and Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council of Russia and one of the more vehement critics of the EU and the West, met in Algiers as part of an official visit. The sections covered ways to improve military coordination between the two nations.

Highest level meetings

The Algerian President intends to meet with Putin in the Kremlin to discuss a new military pact and sign a new strategic partnership deal that would replace the one inked in 2001. The visit, in the opinion of Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, will usher in a new era in relations between Moscow and Algiers. 

In the year since President Tebboune’s coup, democratic institutions have disappeared, free speech has been repressed, and political parties have been outlawed. Since 2021, the government has disbanded several civil society organizations. Amnesty International claims that a judge ordered the dissolution of the Youth Action Rally in October 2021. (Rassemblement Action Jeunesse, or RAJ). The Catholic Church charity Caritas announced its closure in September 2022 in response to allegations made by the government that it offered services and medical care to migrants. The authorities also repressed a lot of cultural associations. The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) was thereafter disbanded in January 2023.

All levels of an administration still have an old Soviet attitude when it comes to the economy. Widespread corruption impedes development. Authorities hinder modernity and treat private entrepreneurs as enemies while harboring animosity toward the private sector.

Algeria enhanced its position as an energy provider to numerous EU members following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For the provision of gas, Italy signed several memoranda and agreements. France took advantage of the chance to improve ties with Algiers. Through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline, Spain also guarantees its gas supply.

Algeria wants to have a preferential relationship with the EU on an economic and scientific level since it needs the EU, but without ignoring its obligations to the Kremlin or reconsidering its military cooperation with Russia. Algiers, though, is unable to use two fields.

Also, Algeria cannot continue to act as a Russian proxy in the North-Western African Sahara and the Western Mediterranean if it wants EU backing.

The EC should take into account the letter from the 17 MEPs and reevaluate the EU-Algeria Agreement given that the Algerian President will soon visit Moscow and the agenda of the Tebboune-Putin summit is public knowledge.

Photo: AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI – File photo, Algerian soldiers stand guard at the Tiguentourine gas complex in In Amenas

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