EU eyes Africa; ’we are grateful’ to Algeria’s gas supply: Borrell
Reuters | 12th March 2023
By Al Mayadeen English
The European Union’s representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, began a visit to Algeria on Sunday, the first of its kind since he took office in December 2019.
In an interview for the Algerian newspaper El Khabar, Borrell affirmed the European Union’s adherence to the partnership agreement with Algeria, pointing out that the EU is open to listening to concrete proposals from the Algerian side regarding the agreement.
He pointed out that the meeting of the Association Council between Algeria and the European Union has been hampered by the recent crisis between Algeria and Madrid, stressing that he hopes that a solution is reached soon, because "this blockage is not in the interest of both parties." The European official stressed that Algeria represents a trusted partner for the EU in the field of energy, declaring the Union’s desire to invest in the field of renewable energy in the North African nation.
Regarding Algeria’s dissatisfaction with the association agreement with the European Union and its demand to have it reviewed in a way that serves the interests of both parties, Borrell considered that the agreement is "the cornerstone of a partnership that the Union wants to be solid and strategic, with a neighbor that is very important to us."
He added that he believes that this agreement "contains the necessary elements, whether legal or institutional, to achieve common goals in accordance with the interests of both parties."
As for the importance of Algerian gas in protecting Europe from an acute energy crisis, Borrell stressed that Algeria is a major partner of the European Union in the field of energy and a trusted supplier of natural gas. It "plays a very important role in securing European energy supplies at a moment that we consider decisive. We are aware of that and we are grateful," he stressed.
The European Union countries want to put their partnership with Algeria in a long-term perspective, he added, noting that European investments in new infrastructure projects serve the continent’s goal of the energy transition to "carbon neutrality" as agreed upon in the Paris conference.
He also said that Europe’s financial support focuses on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and hydrogen, explaining that Algeria "has excellent potential in these fields, which are still underutilized."
Borrell stressed that Europe is ready to mobilize technology and capital to support the development of these sectors in Algeria.
EU countries race to please Africa
Over the past year, Russia decided to gradually halt its supplies of gas to European states due to Western-imposed sanctions over the Ukrainian conflict. It has since then sparked a massive crisis in the continent, causing the cost of living to increase drastically and leaving the EU member states to diversify their energy imports, including from Algeria.
Among the most significant attempts for policy shifts toward the North African country was its previous colonizer, France.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been aiming - to no avail - to reamend ties with Algeria and other African countries for months, however, his refusal to offer a public apology to the Algerians for France’s atrocities, colonization, and genocides it committed has put a halt to Paris’ ambitions.
Rome succeeds where Paris failed
Italy, a former colonizer of several African countries, increased its trade with African nations to a large extent, especially in the energy sector.
As a new diplomatic initiative in Africa, Meloni aspires to mimic Mattei’s business network in Africa through a new version of the "Mattei Plan" in which Algeria would play a crucial role.
On her first visit to Algiers on January 23, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and the two country’s state energy companies signed new agreements.
Rome also aims to act as an intermediary of energy trade between northern Europe and Africa in the upcoming years, thus it aims to intensify its energy imports from African countries, such as Libya and Algeria, which are two of the most oil-rich African nations.
Back in April 2022, Algeria and Italy signed agreements to improve energy connections and expand Algeria’s energy exports to Italy.
On January 29, Eni and Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) inked an $8 billion gas deal on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Last February, Italian energy firm Eni announced in a statement that it discovered a new gas field off the coast of Egypt in the Nargis Offshore Area Concession.
During the same month, Eni, the Italian energy company, announced the acquisition of two gas-producing concessions from the British oil and gas corporation BP in Algeria.
Eni’s production in Algeria is projected to increase to more than 130,000 barrels of oil per day in 2023 as a result of these acquisitions and development initiatives in Algeria’s Berkine basin, according to the announcement.
– EU mounts excruciating energy bills -
Earlier in February, Reuters reported that the combined bills of energy crisis relief funds aimed at shielding households and companies from excruciating energy bills in all European countries have nearly reached a total of 800 billion euros, citing researchers from German think-tank Bruegel.
Data revealed that the European bloc allocated about 681 billion euros for its energy relief program, the UK spent about 103 billion euros, and Norway alone spent an estimated 8.1 billion since September 2021, totaling overall 792 billion euros.
Among the top countries figured, Germany was the number one spender with nearly $270 billion allocated to energy - followed by the UK, then Italy, and France, as the next highest spenders in energy relief programs, despite that they have all spent less than 150 billion euros.