The case is of the utmost importance and was closed in record time. On Monday, April 11, the President of the Italian Council, Mario Draghi, traveled to Algiers to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and officially announce the agreement between the two countries to increase gas supplies to Italy.
In the coming months, the Transmed gas pipeline, which connects the Algerian gas fields to western Sicily via Tunisia, is set to increase its flow rate in order to operate at full capacity. The goal is to gradually increase Algerian gas supplies to 30 billion cubic meters (up from the current 21), an increase of 9 billion cubic meters — an increase about a third of current Russian gas supplies. In practice, an increase of 3 billion would be possible from 2022, with the remainder expected over the course of 2023.
In these times of war in Ukraine, and while all of Europe is trying to do everything possible to reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, the success of this swiftly conducted operation is no easy task. Certainly Rome will pay this additional contribution at a heavy price, but while Europe continues to discuss the possibility of imposing an energy blockade on Russia, the agreement signed in Algiers is a significant step forward. In the coming weeks, the President of the Italian Council will travel to Congo, Angola and Mozambique to formalize agreements with more distant prospects. In the short term, it seems impossible to fully offset the annual 30 billion cubic meters that Russia supplies to Italy (40% of the country’s gas imports). Nonetheless, any opportunities to reduce the cost of possible sanctions against the energy sector are good to seize.
In fact, Italy continues to reaffirm, through the voice of its Council President, that it is ready to accept an embargo at any cost if its partners so decide. “Do we prefer quiet or air conditioning this summer? That’s the question I think we need to ask ourselves.” he summarized on April 6 at a press conference at the end of the Council of Ministers.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Mr Draghi has spoken out in favor of determination, despite reluctance from some parts of his majority. According to data from Financial Times, it was he who put forward the idea from the first hours of the invasion “freeze” Foreign assets of the Central Bank of Russia, draining Moscow of more than $600 billion in resources, causing unexpected damage. Without confirming this information, the Presidency of the Italian Council allowed it. In the same way, since the clashes began, he has defended the idea of providing Ukrainians with defensive weapons. “Not to give weapons to those attacked would prove the autocrats right”, he assured on March 23 in the gallery of the Chamber of Deputies and did not hesitate to invoke the memory of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the plenary hall.
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