The visit of Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, on 26-27 April to Algeria is considered to be of great geopolitical and economic importance.
During his visit, the Greek FM had constructive discussions with both his Algerian counterpart, Rantante Lamarma, and the President of the Council of the Nation, Abdelkader Bensalah. Nikos Kotzias’ official visit began with the laying of a wreath at the Martyrs’ Memorial.
Greek-Algerian relations as characterized as excellent by both sides as Algeria enjoys Greece’s support in issues concerning it within the EU while, as concerns the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Algiers actively supports Greek positions.
The largest African country, participates in the African Union and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, but this does not lessen the problems it faces with both Morocco over Western Sahara and the Libyan civil war which causes refugee flows from Libyan as well as the countries of Central Africa and Syria, as more than 50,000 Syrians are in its territory.
The intensely competitive climate between Algeria and Egypt – despite the close political and economic relations between the two countries – the positions of the Gulf countries that appear to be closer to the Moroccan positions on the issue of Western Sahara, and the civil war in Libya that makes Algiers concerned that the crisis will spill-over to Algeria are the main issues that concern Algeria’s coalition government.
The serious health problems faced by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the search for his successor in the post-Bouteflika era are causing friction in the domestic political scene, although the new Constitution, which came into force in 2016 carrying many democratic provisions, and the elections on 4 May 2017, show that there will be no political instability in the country.
Political stability, a condition for increasing Algeria’s influence in the African Union with regard to Morocco, has not yielded the expected results for the Algerian government in terms of economic co-operation with the rest of Africa.
The New Cooperation for the Development of Africa (NEPAD), which was instigated by the Algerian President, and the bilateral co-operation with countries such as Congo and others, as well as the necessity of making the peace and security architecture of the African Union operational through the activation of the Agency’s Crisis Response Mechanism (CARIC), have handed Algeria the title of being a pillar of stability in the wider region of Africa.
Algeria’s aim is not only to have good relations – and maintain leadership aspirations – in the African continent, but also with the West, as its relations with both the US and France, of which it was colony for over a century, are excellent. In the context of Algeria’s overtures to the West, Greece is considered a strategic economic partner in the energy sector.
With the energy sector being the main pillar of bilateral economic cooperation, the cooperation between Greece and Algeria focuses on the exchange of oil and gas and the cooperation of DEPA with the state-owned Sonatrach hydrocarbon company.
The Greek government’s plan to transform Greece into an energy hub by building and expanding storage facilities allows for the renegotiation of the agreement between the two countries expiring in 2021, in order for the country to become one of the main suppliers of Algerian Natural Gas Europe. This is helped by the conjuncture that Algeria, Spain and Italy’s main customers are negotiating a reduction in supply and aligning prices with those in the international market.
Another important area of cooperation that was explored during the visit of Nikos Kotzias is the possibility of expanding cooperation to the field of Renewable Energy Sources, especially regarding know-how in solar thermal collectors and photovoltaics.
This preparatory visit by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias paves the way for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit Algiers in the near future where the areas of cooperation will be finalized and the start of a beneficial cooperation for both countries will be marked./IBNA
Photos: IBNA/Spiros Sideris