Accueil NEWS Algeria: Prime Minister Meloni visits Algiers to sign historic gas agreement

Algeria: Prime Minister Meloni visits Algiers to sign historic gas agreement

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Algeria: Prime Minister Meloni visits Algiers to sign historic gas agreement

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has made a two-day visit to Algeria. This is her first official trip to the North African country, although her predecessor, Mario Draghi, visited Algiers twice last year.

The main objective of the visit was to consolidate diplomatic and commercial ties and to secure a contract for increased gas exports. Most of the details of the deal had been negotiated by Mario Draghi during his previous visits last summer.

The agreement, signed with the Algerian state-owned gas company Sonatrach, grants Italy the shipment of an additional 9 billion cubic metres of gas in addition to the supply already underway through the TransMed pipeline.

This vital infrastructure connects Algeria to Sicily via Tunisia and under the Mediterranean Sea; expansion has already been planned, aiming to increase current capacity by 33.5 bcm per year.

However, according to Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, who accompanied Meloni to Algiers, "The current capacity is still under-utilised. There are still more than 10 billion m3 that can reach Italy.

Speaking at the press conference, Meloni said: "Today, Algeria is our first gas supplier. I witnessed the signing of two agreements between Eni and Sonatrach: an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases [GHGs] for sustainable development, and a second historic agreement to further increase the supply of Algerian gas to Italy (and thus to the EU), as well as the planning of a new pipeline to transport hydrogen and allow Algeria to produce LNG. In short, a promising energy mix that could protect Italy from the current energy crisis.

Algeria has quickly become Italy's largest gas supplier and has proven to be a reliable partner in helping Rome wean itself off Russian gas, which last year accounted for almost 40% of the country's imports, making Italy the EU's second most gas-dependent major economy after Germany.

Algeria was already supplying about 30% of Italy's natural gas needs in 2021, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It currently accounts for 38% of the country's imports. The new agreement is a step forward in Rome's cooperation with Algiers and reflects Italy's ambition to become a hub for African gas to be transported further north to other EU countries.

"We want Italy to become a European hub for Algerian gas. A junction for other EU countries," said Algeria's ambassador to Rome, Abdelkrim Touahria, who attended the event.

However, to do so, Italy will have to constantly expand its domestic gas network and build new energy corridors to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

On the sidelines of the official visit, Meloni and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited a garden in Algiers dedicated to Enrico Mattei, the founder of Italian energy company Eni, who supported Algeria in its struggle for independence with France in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Meloni announced last December that his government's new plan for Africa would be called "Piano Mattei", after the entrepreneur who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1962. Meloni has repeatedly stated that one of his priorities is to reaffirm Italy's leading role in the Mediterranean. - In particular, to improve stability and security in North African countries in order to stem the flow of illegal migrants trying to reach the Sicilian coast.

Mattei's figure is almost revered in Algeria and still highly regarded in Italy. His policy towards Africa was considered exceptionally fair in the 1960s, when he offered Algeria and Tunisia a 50-50 partnership for the extraction of their oil - unlike the American and British oil giants, who gave African countries much lower margins at the time.

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