Italian Council President Giorgia Meloni and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at the Presidential Palace in Algiers (Algeria) January 23, 2023. AFP PHOTO / PALAZZO CHIGI PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT
After her first steps in Europe, the President of the Italian Council, Giorgia Meloni, has chosen Algeria to further enhance her international reputation. At the end of a two-day official visit that ended on Monday, January 23, the Italian executive highlighted the pervasive theme of her foreign policy speeches of a Mediterranean destiny that Italy has all too often neglected. Picking up the thread of a bilateral relationship between Rome and Algiers, dominated by energy issues and which has become crucial for a gas-importing Italy since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Ms Meloni defended a geopolitical vision that should make her country one “Energy hub” between Europe and Africa.
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“With the major energy crisis Europe is going through, Algeria could become a manufacturing leader, certainly in Africa but probably globally. Italy is inevitably the gateway to this energy and to supply Europe,” summarized Mrs. Meloni together with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. If this geopolitical plan, shared by the Italian executive and the management of the Italian hydrocarbon giant ENI, with the blessing of the Algerian authorities, now dominates reflection on foreign policy in Rome, it finds its origin in the circumstances imposed by the invasion of Ukraine and the need for Italy, which is partially dependent on Russian gas, to diversify its energy supply sources.
The agreements signed by ENI on the fringes of Ms Meloni’s visit to Algiers, the exact content of which has not been disclosed, relate to increasing Algeria’s export capacity to Europe and could include the construction or development of currently planned gas pipelines. The President-in-Office’s trip is part of the continuity of commitments made between Algiers and Rome during the April tenure of former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Algeria was then at the heart of Italy’s response to Russia’s war against Ukraine on the energy front. Ms. Meloni’s predecessor’s government, together with ENI led by Claudio Descalzi, had reached an agreement with Algeria since 2014, paving the way for increased shipments of Algerian gas to Rome.
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Under these deals, Algerian exports to Italy have increased by 12% to 23.7 billion cubic meters in 2022. With the simultaneous drop in Russian imports from 29 billion to 11.2 billion cubic meters, Algeria has become Italy’s leading gas supplier. Italian investments must also help increase Algiers’ production capacity, support future supply increases and speed up the replacement of Russian gas. In Algiers, Mr Descalzi said he hoped for such a switch for the winter of 2024-2025.
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