01 Jan The key role of Italy in the Mediterranean “Energy Diplomacy”
It is clear that the future challenges will be faced in the domain of energy. Today’s crisis in this sector is threatening the tenuous economic growth experienced by European countries on the heritage of the pandemic. And this is an even more tangible threat for countries like ours, where energy dependence on external sources is very high. So what role does Italy play in this area? What are its potentials and, above all, how could these affect the development and growth of the country-system? The answers can be found precisely within the ‘mare nostrum’ area, the Mediterranean Sea.
Starting from the struggle against climate change and the global reduction of greenhouse gases, Italy is a leading player in the area, participating with large investments in the implementation of the renewable energy sector. In this sense, consider Eni, Enel, Edison, Snam, and Terna, huge Italian energy companies which are one of the main drivers of the energy transition. But that is not all.
Thanks to its geographical centrality in the Mediterranean, Italy can also boast a strategic transit vocation, allowing or facilitating the connection between the Balkan countries and the shores of North Africa. Strong technological skills, manufacturing capabilities, and Italian financial organization have allowed these big energy and hydrocarbon companies to be accredited in the best possible way throughout the Mediterranean area, participating with competitivity in the energy market and being appreciated internationally.
Concerning the production of hydrocarbons and precisely the extraction settlements, a strong Italian presence in the region is testified by Enrico Mattei’s Eni. The gas fields recently discovered in Egyptian territorial waters are the target of investments equal to 7.6 billion, an Italian effort that would allow Egypt to achieve energy self-sufficiency and become an export of gas for the entire Mediterranean region. On the other hand, the construction of two gas pipelines capable of interconnecting the Middle East and Italy with the transport of natural gas is more ambitious: the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is managed by the Italian SNAM, while the construction of the East Med-Poseidon also assists the participation of Edison.
TERNA too, for electricity, promotes considerable works, one of which was inaugurated in
November 2019: 445km of submarine pipes that cross the Adriatic Sea and allow you to connect Montenegro to Italy; an analogous underwater interconnection that would connect Italy to Tunisia and therefore, by extension, North Africa to Europe, is being designed.
These are the forms of Italian energy diplomacy, an energy policy that embraces cooperation with partner countries in the Mediterranean region and makes mutual development its main formula. Italy, compatibly with what has been declared by the European Commission, could indeed aspire to become a development centre for neighbouring countries, connecting both sides of the Mediterranean and pursuing its model of sustainable development, based on renewable sources, gas, and energy efficiency.
Author: Dr. Gabriele La Spina
Editor in Chief and geopolitcal analyst in European Affairs, for an Italian think tank, which is IARI – Institute for International Relations
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