Meloni's "Mattei plan" for Algeria and the Mediterranean must guarantee Italy security on energy supplies and prices. France and Germany stamp their feet, but do not interfere; the USA, on the other hand, gives the ok. Startmag conversation with Professor Carlo Pelanda
Giorgia Meloni's visit to Algeria, which began on Sunday, resumes those of Mario Draghi and will serve to implement a "Mattei plan" for the southern and eastern Mediterranean . What are the deep goals of this vision, and the risks? How do the rest of Europe and the United States see Italy's ambition to become a gas hub?
Carlo Pelanda, analyst, essayist and professor of economic geopolitics at the Guglielmo Marconi University, answered these and other questions in this interview with Startmag .
Giorgia Meloni wants to create a strategic partnership, a "Mattei plan", with Algeria and beyond. What are the government's goals?
The strategy on Algeria is to deepen relations and find an indirect way to keep the price of gas as low as possible. The general line is the one followed by Italian foreign policy since the 1950s: try to have good relations with all the coastal nations of the Mediterranean. In this specific case, however, there is a greater emphasis due to the need to replace Russian gas.
Rome seeks a balanced situation, so as not to create excessive bilateral dependence. Algeria is certainly the privileged partner, but Italy has shown that it knows how to agree new supplies with Egypt and Israel, for example. Basically, Italy wants to have good relations with all the coastal countries of the Mediterranean; but also wants to signal to them that they have alternatives in relationships.
Behind these movements there is therefore the desire to secure the Mediterranean basin, an objective pursued for decades. The new element lies in the search for a competitive price for piped gas: this is the most important aspect.
How do you judge Meloni's visit to the Navy ship instead?
Naval matters are mostly a demonstration of strength: they serve Italy to demonstrate that it is a military power and to affirm its presence in the Mediterranean.
What are the risks of a strong rapprochement between Italy and Algeria, given the rather close relations that this country has with Russia?
The Italian negotiating approach with Algeria provides for a focus on common economic interests, on business , without the risks associated with a political alignment.
Even for Algerians, moreover, being able to count on deep bilateral relations with a stable country like Italy is a great advantage. Algiers does not have wonderful relations with Arab countries, especially with Morocco and Saudi Arabia: the latter, in particular, does not like Algeria's autonomy over oil and gas nor its secularized system compared to Riyadh's Wahhabi Islam.
It is also true that Algeria has an interest in joining the BRICS, but on Chinese impetus: China wants to expand into Algeria and competes with Moscow for dominance over this country. And if it is true that Gazprom is very present in the country, on the other hand the questionable quality of Russian armaments pushes the Algerian government to look elsewhere.
Are there any countries in Europe that are against these Italian movements?
France and Germany are not happy with Italy's plans to create a gas hub. Paris is working on a gas pipeline with Spain , which receives a lot of liquid gas; it has signed an energy sharing treaty with Germany and will soon reopen its nuclear fleet. He would like to do more in the Mediterranean, but he doesn't have enough strength due to internal troubles.
Berlin, on the other hand, built regasification terminals in a few months and is negotiating a tube to transport hydrogen from Norway.
In short, France and Germany will want energy domination for themselves and will try to minimize Italy's political advantage. While not happy with Italy's ambition for the gas hub, however, they won't even row against it.
As for Italy, its Mediterranean policy must primarily serve to achieve energy security at low prices. Rome must think about this first, also accelerating on hydrogen, biogas and the national production of oil and gas. Then, possibly, it could be an energy supplier to a portion of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
And what does the United States think?
The Italian approach to Algeria has been agreed with the United States, which has resumed a strong penetration in Africa. Italy has been able to carve out unilateralism in Washington's "African operation", by agreeing with America.
Lucio Caracciolo said that the plan to make Italy a European gas hub does not please the United States, because they think that the pipelines from Southern Europe represent an entry point for Russian gas, or in any case gas linked to Russia. What do you think?
Caracciolo is right: the interest of the United States is to make the European Union dependent on American LNG. It is therefore likely that America does not like pipelines because they reduce the penetration of its fuel.
However, as much as Washington may not like Europe's excessive energy dependence on the southern Mediterranean coast, it must bear in mind that it will need some European countries if it is to build a robust operation in Africa. It is evident, then, that the United States and Italy have spoken to each other.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/italia-strategia-algeria-carlo-pelanda/ on Tue, 24 Jan 2023 05:47:21 +0000.