Both the Maghreb and the Middle East are a fundamental and priority pillar of Spain’s external action. Both regions are undergoing profound changes, entailing opportunities and challenges for Spain. Spain sets as priorities the strengthening of bilateral relations, the stability and progress of both areas, and the resolution of existing conflicts.
The Maghreb is the North African region made up of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. This area is strategic for Spain because of its geographical proximity, its historical links and the density of human, economic and cultural exchanges that take place.
The "Arab Spring" of 2011 gave impetus to a movement of openness and citizen participation in the political life of the region that required constitutional changes in some countries, such as Morocco and Algeria. In the case of Tunisia, the revolutionary process resulted in the establishment of a democratic and pluralist system, while in Libya instability and armed conflict persist to this day.
With regard to Western Sahara, Spain supports a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people, within the framework of the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter. Spain supports the central role of the United Nations in the search for a solution and maintains its humanitarian commitment to the people of Western Sahara, being the leading bilateral donor of aid to the refugee camps.
From an economic perspective, Spain has strong links with the Maghreb. Since 2012, Spain has been Morocco's main trading partner and is also the leading African and Arab destination for Spanish exports, with 20 000 Spanish enterprises operating there. The economic relationship with Algeria is particularly significant in the energy sector, Algeria being the source of approximately half the gas Spain consumes.
Minister José Manuel Albares together with the President of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, during the minister’s trip to the country in September 2021. Photo: NOLSOM-MAUC
Security in the region and the flow of migratory movements are a challenge shared by Spain, the European Union and the Maghreb countries. Spain maintains close bilateral co-operation with the countries of the region in these and other sectoral areas. Spain is promoting greater rapprochement between the European Union and the Maghreb countries and strengthening and developing the European Neighbourhood Policy.
This bilateral cooperation is also reinforced by regional cooperation processes such as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the 5+5 Dialogue, which have encouraged political consultation and sectoral cooperation between the two sides of the Mediterranean.
The Middle East area, comprising Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, is also of particular importance to Spain. In recent years, its political, economic and cultural relations have been strengthened.
The situation in the region is currently marked by conflicts such as that of Syria and the fight against DAESH’s terrorism, as well as others that have been pending for decades such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. Spain is attempting to make a constructive contribution, both within the European Union and bilaterally. Since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, Spain has actively supported a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the premise of two States.
Minister Albares meets with his Egyptian counterpart within the framework of the 6th Conference of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) held in Barcelona in December 2021. Photo: NOLSOM-MAUC
From an economic perspective, Spain has good relations with the Gulf countries. Commercial agreements have been signed in the area and Spanish companies have carried out emblematic projects such as the High Speed Train that links the cities of Medina, Jeddah and Mecca.
The desire for rapprochement between Spain and the countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East cannot be separated from the cultural aspect. In this sense, the active cultural policy of our Embassies in the region, together with the existence of centres of the Instituto Cervantes and the activities organised by Casa Árabe, Centro Sefarad Israel and Casa del Mediterráneo, facilitate understanding and mutual trust and bring societies closer together through an intense public, diplomacy activity.
European Parliament delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries