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Energy diplomacy brings Europe even closer to North Africa

Europe’s rapprochement with countries such as Morocco and Algeria is made clear by Russian supply problems resulting from the invasion of Ukraine

The world is globally suffering from an energy crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Europe has been suffering for months from problems related to energy supplies from Russia, which is under European sanctions for its military intervention in Ukraine.

The search for an alternative to Moscow’s oil and gas has led the main European countries to turn their attention to other markets and suppliers, and North Africa, with Algeria and Morocco as the leading exponents, has made a strong appearance. An economic rapprochement carried out through diplomatic efforts. 

Thus, countries such as France and Italy quickly turned their attention to Algeria, a major gas supplier in the Maghreb. Meanwhile, Spain also focused on Morocco and its new energy deposits, which are being developed, and on its gas connections. The Italian nation has also sought to deepen its energy markets in Angola, Egypt, Congo and Nigeria, while the countries of Western Europe and the United Kingdom have also found in natural gas from the United States (a sector developed thanks to fracking) an alternative to replace Russian gas. The British government has also looked to Morocco for the option of renewable energies, where the North African country is applying many of its efforts, as evidenced by the recent signing of the Green Pact with the European Union. The aim of the European-Moroccan agreement is to strengthen cooperation in the fight against climate change and to advance energy transition projects and stimulate the green economy.

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AFP/ALAIN JOCARD – Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune welcomes French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne at the presidential palace in Algiers on 10 October 2022

Morocco became the first EU partner to sign up to the Green Pact, a Brussels-driven set of policy initiatives aimed at combating the effects of climate change. At an event in Rabat in mid-October, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting out joint lines of action on green transition. The two sides have sought to “foster the transition to a decarbonised industry through investment in green technology, renewable energy production, sustainable mobility and clean production in industry”, according to the MoU. It should be recalled that Brussels had already invested nearly 700 million euros in the renewable energy market in Morocco in recent years.

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The European Green Pact aims to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions cease by 2050. The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Rabat and Brussels aims to develop renewable energy sources with the support of the private sector. It also envisages mobilising investment and strengthening contacts with various financial organisations and European cooperation agencies. In this way, Morocco aims to establish itself as a solid alternative for European states that are trying to move away from fossil fuels, something that could be very useful to avoid the current dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.  

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PHOTO/FILE – Gas installations

Europe’s dependence on Russia has always been very strong. Germany depends on Russia for 50 per cent of its natural gas needs, while Italy relies on Russian gas for 40 per cent. France imports 25% of its gas from Russia and has announced measures to extend regasification stations, something in which Spain stands out; it is also worth remembering France’s strong commitment to nuclear energy in the energy field, an energy source that was once discarded by Germany, which abandoned the path of nuclear energy due to the influence of various environmental policies, which led to the German country becoming highly dependent on Russian gas. 

Moroccan economist Mohammed Nazif noted that “European countries know their interests and defend them, which marks this trend towards Africa to look for energy alternatives”, as reported by Al-Arab. This is part of a long-term strategy established by European countries due to the prolongation of the war in Ukraine, which has been going on since February.

Africa, and the Maghreb in particular, is gaining importance in energy matters and this is demonstrated by projects such as the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline, which is already in the technical and engineering studies phase while the process of raising funds continues, a financing estimated at around 30 billion dollars. 

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AFP/PHILIP OJISUA – File photo, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI

This gas infrastructure would pass through 13 West African countries before reaching Europe after the project is due to be completed in 2016. The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, in his speech to the nation on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the Green March, prioritised the project to build the gas pipeline between the Kingdom and Nigeria, expressing his commitment to boost the prosperity of West Africa: “Morocco has decided to promote as soon as possible the gas pipeline project with Nigeria”, which will run more than 7,000 kilometres along the west coast through 13 countries on the African continent, ending its journey in Europe. 

The Alawi monarch stressed the importance of the gas pipeline that will connect his country with Nigeria, emphasising that its benefits are not limited to Morocco, but that it is a strategic project that benefits the countries of West Africa and Europe, in a clear indication that this pipeline will be the most realistic and closest option for the Old Continent, following difficulties with Russian supplies and Algeria’s diplomatic problems with nations such as Spain, in the latter case due to Spanish support for Morocco’s proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. “In addition to Morocco and Mauritania, the pipeline offers the fifteen member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) opportunities and guarantees in terms of energy security and socio-economic and industrial development,” the Alawite monarch said. In this way, energy will be paid for at a lower cost and some sectors, such as the electricity and industrial sectors, will see their consumption costs reduced. A situation that will improve the North African country’s energy sovereignty. 

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PHOTO/REUTERS – Moroccan director general of the National Board of Hydrocarbons and Mines Amina Benkhadra signs the cooperation agreement documents for the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project with former NNPC director in 2017

On the other hand, Morocco’s National Hydrocarbons Office (ONHYM) and its partners invested 275 million dirham (25 million euros) in oil exploration in the Maghreb country in the first nine months of 2022, as reported by the EFE news agency. The exploration activities are carried out in partnership with 11 companies, over a total area of 207,423 square kilometres offshore and onshore, and are divided between 58 permits, two reconnaissance authorisations and ten exploitation concessions. This oil route also aims to improve the Kingdom’s energy sovereignty and make Morocco a more attractive target for European energy interests. 

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AP/MICHAEL SOHN – Pipelines of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Lubmin, northern Germany

Algeria and Nigeria have also renewed their interest in an old project to transport gas to Europe as part of the so-called “Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline”, although the main focus is now on the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline. In September, Nigeria’s energy minister, Timipre Sylva, revealed that the Nigerian government “has started to implement the construction of a pipeline to transport gas to Algeria, which in turn, at a later stage, will transport it to European countries”. Talks on the Nigeria-Algeria gas pipeline project in Africa began more than twenty years ago. Libya has also expressed its willingness to complete a Libyan-Nigerian gas pipeline to Europe.

Moves and actions that show how Europe and Africa are becoming ever closer in energy matters.

Source: Atalayar

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