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Algeria threatens to cut gas contract with Spain

Gas giant Algeria threatened Wednesday to break a contract to supply gas to Spain if Madrid transferred it onwards to "a third destination", amid tensions with regional rival Morocco.

Algeria threatens to cut gas contract with Spain
Spain, which is dependent on Algeria for gas supplies, broke in March with its decades-long stance of neutrality and recognised Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Algeria’s state-owned energy giant Sonatrach supplied more than 40 percent of Madrid’s natural gas imports in 2021, most of which was supplied directly through the 750-kilometre (465-mile) Medgaz deepwater pipeline.

Algeria, Africa’s largest gas exporter, previously also supplied gas through a second GME (Gaz Maghreb Europe) pipeline, which links Spain to Algeria via Morocco.

But Algiers in November shut supply through the GME due to a diplomatic rupture with Rabat, depriving Morocco of Algerian gas.

On Wednesday, Algeria’s Energy and Mines Minister Mohamed Arkab said his Spanish counterpart informed him that Madrid was to “authorise the operation, in reverse flow” of the GME pipeline, and that this would start “today or tomorrow”, an energy ministry statement said.

It did not mention the country the gas would be sent to.

However, in February, Spain said it would help Rabat to “guarantee its energy security” by allowing it to transport gas through the GME.

Algiers warned that any routing of “Algerian natural gas delivered to Spain, whose destination is none other than that provided for in the contracts, will be considered as a breach of contractual commitments.”

Doing so “could result in the termination of the contract between Sonatrach and its Spanish customers”.

Algeria and Morocco have seen months of tensions, partly over Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel in exchange for Washington recognising Rabat’s sovereignty over the disputed region of the Western Sahara.

Spain, which is dependent on Algeria for gas supplies, broke in March with its decades-long stance of neutrality and recognised Morocco’s autonomy plan for the territory, a former Spanish colony.

READ ALSO: Why Spain’s Western Sahara U-turn is a risky move with no guarantees

Algeria’s warning comes as Europe seeks to wean itself off Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday stopped all gas supplies to Poland and highly dependent Bulgaria, raising the spectre of a shortage in the region — and Europe as a whole.

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BRITONS IN SPAIN

Can British people in Spain claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

In the UK, there are various benefits available to help eligible people through the cold winter months – one of which is the winter fuel payment. But can Britons living in Spain claim this benefit to cover the cost of heating their Spanish homes?

Can British people in Spain claim the UK's winter fuel payment?

Energy costs are on the up in Spain, and with the winter fast approaching the added cost of paying for heating when the mercury drops can result in some very high bills.

Not all of Spain has freezing winters but there are often cold spells and many houses in the country tend to get even colder than it is outside.

READ MORE: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

The average winter temperature across Spain is 8C (1981 to 2010 average). That’s higher than the average in other European countries, but in Spain’s interior and mountainous areas it can be truly chilly from November to March.  

That means that overall, there’s a chance you’ll need to use a radiator or the central heating to keep your Spanish home warm.

So are some of the 400,000+ UK nationals who reside in Spain eligible for winter fuel financial support from the UK?

What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

The UK’s winter fuel payment is a tax-free payment to help older people with heating costs during the cold winter months.

Those eligible must have been born before September 26th 1956, according to the UK government website.

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £250 and £600.

I’m a UK national living in Spain. Can I claim the winter fuel payment?

The UK government states that those living abroad can benefit from the winter fuel payment if:

  • You moved to an eligible country before 1st January 2021
  • You were born before September 26th 1956
  • You have a genuine and sufficient link to the UK – this can include having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK

While many EU nations are on the list of eligible countries, such as Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Italy, unfortunately Spain is not on the list.

This means that if you live in Spain, you will not be able to claim the winter fuel payment at all, even if you meet the age conditions.

Why isn’t Spain on the eligible list of countries?

The UK government services website nidirect states that “you cannot get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK”.

This is despite the fact that some parts of Spain are a lot colder than the average UK winter temperatures. This includes cities, towns and villages near mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or Sierra Nevada, or regions in the interior like Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón​​ and Castilla y León.

According to the British government, during winter the average temperature is between 2 and 7 C in the UK.

READ ALSO: Where are the coldest places in Spain?

Foreigners in Spain used to be able to claim this financial benefit, but it was scrapped in 2015 after many UK taxpayers were angry that UK winter fuel payments were going to help people that lived in countries that were generally warmer than the UK.

READ ALSO: Which UK benefits can Brits keep if they move to Spain?

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