Algeria, Spain and Italy at the heart of a problem of delimitation of maritime waters

The file of the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Algeria in the Mediterranean, acted unilaterally by Algiers, has not seen any progress since 2020. Spain and Italy are the main States concerned by this new route but their energy dependence on Algeria complicates the situation.

In March 2018, the former Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, declared through a presidential decree that Algeria was extending its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to a few kilometers from the Sardinian sea near the Italian coasts but also extended its economic jurisdiction to a piece of sea from the island of Cabrera in the south of Mallorca.

This modification went unnoticed until 2020 when the two countries concerned, Italy and Spain, showed an interest in these maritime areas which risk seeing Algerian mining and oil exploration close to their coasts or even see the country to prohibit fishermen from entering its new EEZ.

And between Spain and Italy, it is the second which has been the most active in clarifying this situation after a strong plea by the former president of the Sardinia region in Italy, Mauro Pili, who accused the Algeria for having extended the borders of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to Sardinia and for seizing a maritime zone forming part of international waters.

“This time it is Algeria that is attacking the international borders at sea. Moreover, the decree of the President of the Republic of March 21, 2018, has put in black and white the new borders of its exclusive maritime economic zone”he said in 2020.

The former Sardinian president had also criticized the absence of discussions between Algiers and Rome on this subject during bilateral summits or meetings at international summits. Faced with its relentlessness to wake up the authorities of its country, Italy finally presented an official protest to the United Nations, 2 years after the Algerian presidential decree.

The two countries are said to have started negotiations to ratify a common agreement and a joint technical commission has been set up to discuss the delimitation of territorial waters, according to Italian sources, except that the file has not registered any progress.

For the Italian politician, Rome’s silence on this subject is explained by the energy group Eni, which he accuses of being “the real government in Italy” and of “selling off the Sardinian coast for its economic interests with Algeria”. .

In May 2022, the Italian groups Eni and Algerian Sonatrach strengthened their partnership with the signing of a new agreement for the development of gas fields in Algeria and “decarbonization in green hydrogen” projects, which will aim to reduce Italy’s dependence on Russian energy following the war in Ukraine.

The two countries have developed their energy ties in recent months also thanks to a diplomatic crisis between Algeria and Spain. In mid-July, Rome and Algiers announced a new energy rapprochement with a project to build a 250 km submarine cable to bring electricity from the Annaba coast to Italy.

With Spain, the situation remains complicated since Madrid has tried to free itself from its dependence on Algerian gas in recent months to avoid diplomatic pressure and blackmail exercised by the Algerian authorities on the Sahara issue.

Algeria has declared a diplomatic crisis that does not speak its name officially against Spain following its position in favor of the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco to put an end to this regional dispute.

But shortly before, in particular in March 2020, during the visit of the former head of Spanish diplomacy Arancha Gonzales Laya, to Algeria and his meeting with Sabri Boukadoum and the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the tone was conciliatory on the affair of the maritime borders.

While Algeria unilaterally decided in April 2018 to extend its borders to near the Spanish Balearic archipelago, the former minister who was the instigator of the Brahim Ghali affair (his illegal arrival and under a false identity in Spain while he is wanted for crimes against humanity, editor’s note), affirmed to be “100% in agreement” with Algeria.

I would like to be very clear about the maritime borders on which Algeria and Spain agree 100%. We have no problem fixing maritime borders“said Arancha Gonzalez Laya during a joint press conference with his Algerian counterpart.

“The two countries have the right to fix their maritime borders, according to the rules of the United Nations. (…) When there is an overlap of maritime zones, it takes negotiation to reach an agreement”she added.

The former Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sabri Boukadoum replied: ” We have no problem delimiting the maritime borders between Spain and Algeria”while claiming to have the “ willingness to negotiate in the future for any overlapping of maritime spaces”.

But the file has remained closed since this visit and neither of the two countries has created a joint commission to discuss the delimitation of the borders.


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