ITALY’S “WIDER MEDITERRANEAN”:
IS IT JUST ABOUT ENERGY?
The MED This Week newsletter provides expert analysis and informed insights on the MENA region’s most significant issues and trends, bringing together unique opinions on the topic and reliable foresight on possible future scenarios. Today, we place the spotlight upon the recent visit of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to Algeria, focusing on Italy’s renewed activism within the wider Mediterranean region.
On January 22-23, the Italian PM Giorgia Meloni set out on a mission to Algeria to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and her counterpart Aïmen Benabderrahmane. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Algeria’s ample natural gas reserves have played a pivotal role in reducing Italy’s energy dependence upon Russia, which accounted for 40% of Rome’s gas imports prior to the onset of the conflict. The recently appointed PM’s visit to Algeria moves along a line of continuity with the previous government. Indeed, last year former premier Mario Draghi reached a major agreement with the Algerian authorities to step up gas imports, making the North African country Italy’s largest energy supplier in place of Russia. During this latest visit, a new set of deals were signed, aimed at further increasing Algerian gas exports to Italy; stemming greenhouse gas emissions; building a pipeline to transport hydrogen to Italy; and enhancing cooperation amongst Algerian and Italian SMEs. At the same time, Italy’s government sought guarantees ensuring that Algeria would abide by its pledges amid concerns that the country’s poor energy infrastructures would not be able to meet Italy’s rising energy demand. Confident that boosted energy cooperation might speed up progress on a variety of other fields at the wider regional level, Rome seeks to strengthen its clout within the Mediterranean. Its objective is to become not only a logistical energy hub for Europe in the coming years, but also an increasingly relevant player in the Mediterranean’s geopolitics (tackling, among others, sensitive subjects such as migration and terrorism). The series of visits undertaken by top ranking Italian government officials in the area seems to confirm this greater ambition.
The experts of the ISPI MED network react to Italy’s renewed activism in the Mediterranean.