Italy to Algeria. On Sunday, as we anticipated, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni travelled to Algiers. There she met with Algerian Prime Minister Aimen Benabderrahmane on Sunday and President Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune on Monday. Her goal: to consolidate the economic and political ties between the countries – hinged on energy but rapidly expanding elsewhere.
- At a joint press conference with President Tebboune, PM Meloni underscored the trip to Algiers was her first official bilateral visit abroad – “not by chance […] as a demonstration of how Algeria is a reliable and strategically important partner.”
- On his part, the Algerian president noted the “special importance” of her visit and expressed his “satisfaction with the level of strategic relations between the two friendly countries.”
Meloni’s mission, in two words: while visiting an Italian Navy ship in the port of Algiers on Sunday, the PM thanked the crew for their “extremely strategic work, because we are returning to projecting Italy as a priority in the Mediterranean for its strategic interests.”
A new pipeline… As Rome diversified away from Russia’s gas, Algeria took the latter’s spot as Italy’s top supplier – promising to cover roughly 40% of its overall gas needs – and the two pushed for increased, mutually advantageous cooperation.
- The two leaders doubled down on this entente, announcing they signed an agreement to build a new gas, hydrogen-ready pipeline and undersea power cable, connecting Algeria to the Italian island of Sardinia.
- GALSI (Gas Pipeline Algeria Sardinia Italy) will be 284 kilometres long and connect the Algerian port of Koudiet Draouche to Porto Botte, which will rely on connections with Italy’s mainland to send the gas over to the Old Continent.
… and more gas. Accompanying PM Meloni was Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italy’s State-controlled energy giant Eni, who noted the Draghi-era agreement with its Algerian partner Sonatrach to increase gas supplies to Italy had been respected.
- “Only two years ago, Algeria was giving Italy about 21 billion [cubic metres; in 2022], it has given 25. We will reach 28 billion next year, and then in 2024-2025 we will exceed that again,” he said.
- This “strategic partnership” will allow Italy to stop Russian gas imports entirely by the 2024-2025 winter, confirmed Mr Descalzi, who signed an agreement with Sonatrach’s CEO Toufir Hakkar.
Energy as a springboard. Italy and Algeria also signed a memorandum of understanding for space cooperation and are committed to expanding their collaborations in the fields of automotive, shipbuilding, tourism, and agriculture, as well as green energy.
- President Carlo Bonomi of Confindustria (Italy’s employers’ federation and chamber of commerce), who was also in Algiers, signed a cooperation agreement with the President of the Algerian Economic Renewal Council, Kamel Moula.
- “Algeria is Italy’s first partner in Africa, and we are Algiers’ first customers. Now we need to strengthen the network of Italian companies in Algeria and Algerian companies in Italy […] there are many possible fields of collaboration, and we want to explore them all,” stated the PM.
It’s strategic. The expanded Rome-Algiers cooperation comes with mutual benefits. Algeria gets increased gas sales and investments to support its transition to renewable power. At the same time, the entente is a consolidation of Italy’s project to become the Mediterranean’s energy hub, linking Northern Africa and the Middle East to the rest of Europe and allowing gas, then green electricity and hydrogen, to flow North.
Also, international politics – and stability. During their talks, PM Meloni and President Tebboune touched upon some of the key dossiers in the Mediterranean area. “Our long chat was an opportunity to talk about the stabilisation of Libya and the situation in Mali, where the instability worries us,” said the Italian PM, who also noted that “only a two-state solution can ensure peace in the region” in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
- President Tebboune also sought to assuage worries over Algiers’ closeness to Moscow – “Algeria is a friend of all countries, except those that do not want it: it does not depend on any diplomatic orbit,” he said, according to l’Expression.