The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, arrived in Algiers on Wednesday to begin an official visit aimed at strengthening the close economic, political and security relations that link Spain and Algeria.
Sánchez was received on the steps and with military honours by the Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, at Houari Boumedian airport, from where he was taken to the presidential palace for a gala dinner and a brief meeting with the President of the Republic, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
On board the plane that took him from Madrid, the president stressed the importance of a visit that aims to boost the already strong presence of Spanish companies and to extend Spain's support to the new Algerian government.
Tomorrow's agenda will be intense and will include a meeting between Sánchez and Djerad, a business meeting with Algerian and Spanish companies with interests in Algeria, an appearance before the media, and a visit to the Casbah of Algiers and the cave where Miguel de Cervantes was hiding after his escape attempt.
As executive sources recall, Algeria is a strategic partner of Spain and relations between the two countries are close.
Migration, security and the fight against terrorism and economic relations will be the focus of this official visit, which was scheduled for April but had to be postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic, which has officially infected over 52,000 people and killed 1,768 in the country.
On this occasion, Sánchez was accompanied by an economic delegation with several companies -Seat, Técnicas Reunidas, Naturgy, Duro Felguera, Abengoa, Vickyfoods/Dulcesol, Indra and Levantina-, the employers' association (CEOE and Foment del Treball), the Chamber of Commerce and UGT. In the latter case, it is the first time that the union is represented on a trip of this kind.
The presence of all of them gives a marked economic character to the visit to this country, which is the main supplier of gas to Spain, although imports plummeted in the last year due to the fall in the prices of this raw material - in the first half of the year it contributed 21% of the gas that entered Spain, compared to almost 50% in other times.
But migration policy and security are also key. In recent months the two countries have strengthened their contacts owing to the increase in the number of boats arriving in Spain with irregular immigrants from Algeria and to the fight against terrorism in North Africa.
Algeria is experiencing a complex political and economic moment. It has been enduring a deep economic crisis since the collapse of oil and gas prices in 2014, the only wealth it exploits.
In less than a month, on 1 November, the country is holding a referendum on changing the constitution without having put down the mass popular protests (Hirak) which have been calling for an end to the military regime that has dominated the country since independence from France since February 2019 and which led to President Bouteflika's departure after 20 years in power.
On Thursday, the President of the Government will hold an early meeting with the Algerian Prime Minister, with whom, in addition to economic cooperation, he will discuss security issues of common interest such as the fight against jihadism, irregular migration and instability in the Sahel region, particularly in Niger and Mali, countries that border Algeria
Afterwards, and after a business meeting, Sánchez will make a floral offering in front of the Shrine to the Martyrs and will be received in an audience by the President of the Republic.
The day will end with a cultural activity: Sánchez will inaugurate the Cervantes tourist route, which runs through the old part of the city of Algiers, a route that will end in the cave where the author of 'Don Quixote' was hidden after his attempt to escape from the city, where he was held captive.
Only two months ago the minister of the interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, visited Algeria at a moment of tension on the country's southern border, a vast desert territory that has become one of the main routes of irregular sub-Saharan migration and where mafias engaged in illegal trafficking of arms and fuel and Jihadist organisations also operate with ease.
As the foreign minister, Arancha González-Laya, stated less than a month ago, the number of immigrants arriving in Spain from Algeria has increased fivefold so far this year.