Italy’s new firebrand right wing prime minister has big plans for her country to become a gas hub in Europe with the help of Algeria playing the role of its main supplier.
Giorgia Meloni arrived in Algeria for a low-key two-day visit on January 22nd as the two nations look to build up a strategic partnership and Italy works to further wean itself off Russian energy with help from the gas-rich North African country while Algeria looks to Rome for new areas of defence procurement so as to present itself to the world as not entirely in the pocket of Russia in such matters.
Algeria has replaced Russia as Italy’s principal energy supplier and Rome is looking to boost that partnership. However, topics such as naval construction, cars and start-ups were said to be on Meloni’s agenda, a sign the two countries might deepen their cooperation.
Meloni was scheduled on January 23rd to meet Monday Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
The two last talked in November on the sidelines of the climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort town. A raft of agreements are now due to be signed. It was unclear whether another energy deal was in the offing.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which upset global strategic and economic dynamics, gave a new and urgent dimension to ties between Algiers and Italy, long dependent on Russian energy.
Other European Union nations also have scrambled to find replacements for Russian energy.
Italy and Algeria want to build on the then-Premier Mario Draghi’s successful initiatives last year to boost Algerian energy supplies to Italy and, an Algerian diplomat said, “push beyond that.”
“We want Italy to become a European hub for Algerian gas. A junction for other EU countries,” Algeria’s ambassador to Rome, Abdelkrim Touahria, said in an interview with Rome daily Il Messaggero, published on January 21st.
An initial deal last year concluded by Draghi added nine billion cubic metres of gas by 2023-2024 to be sent via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.
Months later, in July, a $4 billion agreement between the companies Eni, the Italian energy company, Occidental and Total was concluded.
Italian consular officials in Rome regularly try to identify illegal migrants thought to be Algerian held in Sardinia and southern Italy, the official Algerian news agency APS quoted Touahria as saying.