Europe

Spain’s foreign minister urges NATO to look southward

Jose Manuel Albares describes hybrid threats such as ‘unacceptable political use of energy flows or illegal immigration’

Alyssa McMurtry   | 12.05.2022
Spain’s foreign minister urges NATO to look southward

OVIEDO, Spain

Spain is pushing NATO to increase focus on the growing threats from countries south of the Mediterranean, the country’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

Jose Manuel Albares is in the middle of negotiations over NATO’s next strategic concept, which will be adopted in Madrid in late June, and set out a 10-year roadmap for the alliance.

“Right now, Europe is threatened with its greatest challenge since the Berlin Wall fell,” said the foreign minister in a talk in Alicante, referring to the war in Ukraine.

“But that isn’t the only threat because Russia is present in the south and other direct threats are coming from NATO’s southern flank.”

Albares explained that the threats were hybrid and included “the unacceptable political use of energy flows or illegal immigration to threaten national sovereignty.”

Spain experienced the political use of migration flows last spring, when Moroccan authorities let thousands of migrants pour into one of Spain’s African enclaves amid a diplomatic spat.

Algeria, a key Russian ally, has also threatened Spain’s gas supply over Madrid’s diplomatic shift toward appeasing Rabat’s demands.

Just days after meeting with the Global Coalition against Daesh in Marrakesh, Albares said “the main conclusion of the summit was that the biggest terrorist threat on the planet right now has moved from Iraq to the Sahel, very close to Spain.”

He said the Sahel region is currently at a “critical point.” Over the last year, the region has seen a record number of coup d’etats while soaring food and fertilizer prices due to the war in Ukraine are greatly threatening the region’s food security.

“The Sahel is faced with a vicious circle of poverty and violence, which we must try to break,” said Albares, adding how Spain’s international development efforts center on the region.

Meanwhile, he highlighted that Russian influence has been growing in Africa.

The support can be seen in the recent UN General Assembly vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Of the 24 countries that voted with Russia against the motion, one-third were from Africa, including key partners like Algeria and Mali.

“NATO should also look southward because to guarantee security today isn’t just to guarantee military security, but also human security,” Albares said.

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