Italy’s Meloni eyes reinforce strong energy ties with Algeria

ALGIERS – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni aims to strengthen already strong energy ties with Algeria to further wean Italy from Russian energy, a focus of her two-day visit to the North African nation, which begins on Sunday.

Russia’s War in Ukraine, which disrupted global strategic and economic dynamics, gave a new and urgent dimension to Algiers-Rome relations, long dependent on Russian energy. Other countries in the European Union have also been scrambling to find alternative sources of Russian energy.

Italy and gas-rich Algeria now want to build on then-Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s successful initiatives last year to increase Algerian energy supplies to Italy and, as one Algerian diplomat said, “go beyond”.

“We want Italy to become a European hub for Algerian gas. A hub for other EU countries,” Algeria’s ambassador to Rome, Abdelkrim Touahria, said in an interview with Rome’s daily Il Messaggero, published on Saturday.

Algeria has replaced Russia as Italy’s No. 1 energy supplier and transports natural gas via the trans-Mediterranean pipeline.

A first deal struck by Draghi last year added 9 billion cubic meters of gas by 2023-2024, Eni said at the time. Months later, in July, a $4 billion deal was struck between the companies Eni, Italian energy company Occidental and Total.

Meloni is expected to meet with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune as well as the nation’s Prime Minister. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi is also part of the delegation.

“Today we are Italy’s leading energy partner,” said Touahria. “But we want to go beyond that.”

Touahria, the Algerian ambassador, said that Italy’s Eni and Algerian oil company Sonatrach are also looking to the future together with projects such as oil and gas exploration in southern Sahara.

In addition to energy, many other topics are discussed during Meloni’s visit, from shipbuilding to cars and start-ups.

Meloni’s far-right-led coalition won national elections in September, and it was likely immigration and migrant issues dear to Europe’s far-right would be on the agenda.

Italy is a magnet for migrants fleeing poverty, war and other hardships in their home countries, and North Africans, often from Tunisia and Algeria, are among them.

Algeria’s ambassador to Italy met Italy’s interior minister this week ahead of Meloni’s visit. Italian consular officials in Rome regularly try to identify illegal migrants believed to be Algerians detained in Sardinia and southern Italy, official Algerian news agency APS Touahria was quoted as saying.

Meloni and Tebboune met in November on the sidelines of a climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort town.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Italy’s Meloni eyes reinforce strong energy ties with Algeria

Sarah Y. Kim

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