Rome and Algiers are speaking… On Wednesday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani had a phone conversation with his Algerian counterpart Ahmed Attaf. The two touched upon bilateral dossiers, with the former emphasising the importance of Algerian-Italian cooperation for stability and security in the Mediterranean and stressing Italy’s desire to further deepen “the already excellent” relations with Algeria in political, economic and security terms.
- As Italy pushed to diversify away from Russia’s gas, Algeria took the latter’s spot as the top supplier – promising to cover roughly 40% of its overall gas needs.
- Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni flew to Algiers in January for her first official visit abroad – “not by chance,” as she stressed.
- She and Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune signed a slew of cooperation agreements, which include clean energy investments in Algeria and the construction of a new, hydrogen-ready gas pipeline and an undersea power cable towards Italy.
- “Italy is determined to further expand the areas of economic cooperation with Algeria,” added FM Tajani, “aiming in particular at innovative sectors such as agro-industry, biomedical technologies and digital infrastructures.”
… about Tunisia. Crucially, talks between FMs Tajani and Attaf also hinged on one of the region’s most pressing issues. Tunis is currently awaiting the approval of a $1.9 billion International Monetary Fund loan to address its growing social and economic crisis. Its knock-on effects affect regional instability – one of the main drivers of emigration, which in turn is a matter of Italian concern.
- Tunisia has become the main country of departure for migrants reaching the Italian coasts. Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has already planned a trip in late April, alongside EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and French Minister Gerald Darmanin, to discuss controlling the flow of persons.
Working the phones. Meanwhile, Italy is seeking to rally international support for Tunis and bolster the chances of stabilising the region. Rome, stressed FM Tajani while speaking to Mr Attaf, wants to work “in close coordination” with Algeria “to support Tunisia, facilitate national reconciliation in Libya and foster the stabilisation of the Sahel area.”
- To unlock the IMF loan, FM Tajani has spoken with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, urging her to show flexibility and counter Tunis’ financial collapse.
- He also reached out to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – who is sceptical about trustingly financing a country in democratic decline – and other counterparts.
PM Meloni is also “working the phones”, as one official told Reuters, warning that Italy faced an “invasion of migrants” in the coming months if Tunisia did not get the money.