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Why is trade between Algeria and Spain still at a standstill?

Since last June, the two countries have severed business and trade relations over Spain's support of Morocco's claim to the contested Western Sahara

On June 8 last year, Algeria suspended its friendship treaty with Spain and imposed a blockade on Spain. Spain has been asking the European Commission to aid the businesses impacted by the blockade, which has cost the Iberian country around €4.4 million a day. The European Union has been careful not to take sides, as Algeria is becoming an increasingly important partner for European countries looking for alternative energy sources. On a visit to Algiers on March 13, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for a detente between the two countries to resume trade, but the EU’s words are likely falling on deaf ears. Intissar Fakir, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Al-Monitor that the Western Sahara dispute is a zero-sum game, as Morocco is getting more demanding in terms of support on the Western Sahara and Algeria is adamant about cutting off that support.

The EU is stuck in the middle of the conflict between Algeria and Spain. Italy has reduced its gas imports from Russia to 25%, putting Algeria in an incredibly strong position vis-a-vis Europe. Spain has lost revenue from exports to Algeria, with hard-hit sectors such as food, agricultural products, and raw materials. Spain’s main incentive for continuing to support Morocco is migration, but it would risk souring the relationship with Morocco. Algeria sees Spain’s minor concession as a dangerous precedent, because it is keen to stem the tide of the Western Sahara that had been benefiting Morocco. Spain cannot go back on it, as it would risk souring the relationship with Morocco.

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