The visit of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to Algeria has fueled speculation that the country is attempting to forge a new energy policy, but this is just business as usual, according to former Prime Minister and current leader of the Five Star Movement Giuseppe Conte in an exclusive video interview.
Several European countries have sought to supplement their energy supplies from African countries in order to combat the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Meloni arrived in Algeria on Monday (23 January) to announce her new energy policy and political ties with the country, describing the Rome-Algiers partnership as a new ‘Mattei plan,’ referring to Enrico Mattei, the founder of the Italian oil and gas giant Eni.
However, such declarations are merely words, according to Conte.
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“Frankly, I do not see any signs of a turnaround in Italian foreign policy. Everything seems to be in line with attention to those countries, especially in the North African belt, with which we have historically consolidated relations,” Conte said, dismissing Meloni’s ‘Mattei plan’ as a “slogan without contents”.
He said, “With Algeria, we already had contracts in place at a time of great difficulty when we needed diversification and a different energy supply. So, it seems to me that this visit to Algeria by Meloni is a sign of the consolidation of these treaties, these agreements,”.
As prime minister, Conte visited Algeria in November 2018 and January 2020. His successor Mario Draghi visited the country in April and July 2022.
During her visit, Meloni also announced plans to make Italy an energy hub – a proposal criticised by Conte due to the scale of investment needed.
In his reaction, Conte said “The Five Star Movement believes that it is an absolute priority to invest in renewables. Because even though the gas market, which has now become in public opinion the most urgent issue to be kept under control, is a market that, the experts tell us, will settle down after 2030,”.
Looking at EU leaders’ response to the war in Ukraine, Conte said that the EU is “not doing enough” to steer the conflict towards a solution, condemning the path of “military escalation, stressing that his party supports Ukraine and condemns Russian President, Vladimir Putin over his aggression.
At the beginning of the war, “we supported all aid, including military aid to Ukraine. There was an obvious military asymmetry, and we could not leave Ukraine alone. But a year has passed. Where is this military strategy taking us? There is a deficit of politics,” Conte argued.
The Five Star Movement’s position on the war has been widely criticised in Italy by both left and right-wing parties, who have taken a militarily stronger stance: Meloni, who took office last autumn, immediately offered her military support to Kyiv, while the Democratic Party underlined the need to help those in the line of fire.
On the 2024 EU elections, Conte explained that the Five Star Movement is talking with the European Greens about potentially joining them.
“Programmes have a central role to us in the possibility of strengthening our political action and finding interlocutors in a group that can share this project of ours. It is a project that is absolutely built on an effective ecological transition,” Conte said.
Speaking further, he said “We absolutely want to share a massive investment project for renewable energy. We want to overcome the restrictive austerity policy as an end in itself. These are our ideas, our perspectives. And certainly, that group (the Greens) appears to us to be a privileged interlocutor to pursue these policies,”
This story was adapted from Euractiv.