Energy sector set to drive EU-Algerian relations over the coming years

Written by Elmar Brok on 6 January 2016 in Feature
Feature

There is great scope to further deepen the opportunities for cooperation between the EU and Algeria, writes Elmar Brok.

Algeria is an important partner to the European Union and has been participating in the European neighbourhood policy (ENP) of the EU since 2005. Nevertheless, there is still great scope to enhance EU-Algeria cooperation at political and economic levels.

The main focus of EU support to Algeria between 2007 and 2013 has been on economic reform, with a strong emphasis on employment, diversification of the economy as well as economic governance and environmental issues.

The EU is Algeria's main trading partner and the energy sector will continue being one of the main fields for cooperation in the coming years. However, focusing on the current geopolitical context, both partners should go beyond their current horizons to enhance their cooperation and set bigger ambitions.


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The objective of the ENP, as underlined in Article 8 of the Treaty of the European Union, is to develop an area of shared stability, security and prosperity with the countries of the neighbourhood willing to engage.

As the European Parliament stated recently when adopting its position on the review of the ENP, the revised policy should be based on mutual accountability and shared commitment to EU values and principles, including democracy, rule of law, human rights and efficient, accountable and transparent public institutions.

Even if the ENP has been impeded by the fact that large parts of the neighbourhood continue to be affected by armed conflicts and crises that are undermining the development of a genuine and effective multilateral dimension of the ENP, these values remain a priority of the EU's foreign policy. 

For the European Parliament, this policy should become more political and more effective, notably by being more strategic and flexible. It needs to take into account the various challenges facing these countries, their aspirations and their political ambitions.

So as well as underlining the utmost importance of local ownership, the European Parliament emphasised that the relationship with countries of the ENP should aim at strengthening the promotion of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, as well as the social dimension by stimulating employment and fair growth. We need to have a diversified offer and explore with our partners, like Algeria, priority sectors where our cooperation should be reinforced.

The European Parliament called on the European Commission to explore different levels of participation, cooperation and engagement in EU policies, programme and agencies and for the gradual opening-up of the energy union to the ENP countries.

Such action would consolidate the rule of law and stability in our partner countries and provide opportunities for investment and job creation to help address the pressing challenge of unemployment (particularly among youth), social exclusion and lack of development. 

Attracting international - particularly European - companies to the country is an essential part of developing a more vibrant private sector, diversifying the Algerian economy and guaranteeing economic sustainability.

Given its strong military power and geopolitical context, Algeria has the potential to develop into an important ally of the EU not only in North Africa but also in the Sahel region. It is essential that the EU develops a more effective and comprehensive approach by involving Algeria in providing a regional response to the conflict in the Sahel and by engaging with it on EU external policies.

Algeria has to be commended for its role in supporting the UN-led mediation efforts to a political solution to the current situation in Libya. This example illustrates how working in partnership with countries of the region, multilateral and bilateral action can be complementary.

Additionally, a better relationship with Morocco would be of utmost importance for stability as well as for economic and political development.

We should also pay tribute to its support for the Tunisian economy. It has shown solidarity at a difficult time of austerity, and emphasises that regional cooperation and integration in the Maghreb is the way forward. 

There is hope that the ongoing negotiations for a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) with Morocco and their launch with Tunisia will also have a spill-over effect towards further regional integration.

 

About the author

Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) is Chair of Parliament's foreign affairs committee

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