Gas Diplomacy Gives Algeria Negotiating Clout
The pace has been accelerating remarkably on the Algiers-Rome axis, during the last few days and weeks, in a way that draws the attention of the followers. The Italian government announced, in a statement on Tuesday night, the visit of the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, to Algeria slated for next Monday.
The Italian Prime Minister’s visit to Algeria comes in a frantic international situation in the race for energy, and this crisis, which remains a direct result of the Russian-Ukrainian war, has led to a deep polarization within the European Union, which was manifested by the failure of some countries to impose a proposal notably “Bulk purchase” of gas by Brussels, whereas a voluntary purchase was favored.
Mr. Draghi had a telephone conversation with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune last Friday, and the global energy crisis was at its center, especially the “Italian-Algerian Energy Agreement and Strategy”, as well as various bilateral and multilateral institutional meetings, including the upcoming bilateral government summit in Algeria, according to a statement issued by the Government Palace in Rome “Palacio Chigi”.
During this call, the Italian side asked Algeria to increase gas shipments by about nine billion cubic meters of gas per year, to be added to the 21 billion that Rome received from Algeria during the past year, bringing the total to thirty billion cubic meters per year at the old price, according to the Algerian ambassador in Rome, Abdelkarim Touahrieh, in a message crossing the Mediterranean towards Madrid.
What is happening between Rome and Algeria these days is what is termed “gas diplomacy”, and within this strategy, Algeria has become a primary target of the Italian government.
Draghi’s planned visit to Algeria comes two days after the visit of the President and Director-General of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, and a few days after the visit of a large Algerian delegation to Rome headed by Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chakib Rachid Kaid.
From the Italian capital, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Algeria intends to “review the agreements with Spain in all fields,” and that it is in the process of reviewing the prices of gas exported to this country without other partners, in response to the sudden change in the Spanish position on the issue of Western Sahara, which has triggered off the severe anger of Algeria.
Following the meeting that brought together the delegations of the two countries in Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio explained that “Italy wants a 360-degree strategic agreement with Algeria, to intensify political dialogue, enhance economic and energy cooperation, and work together for the stability of the Mediterranean basin”.
The meeting, which was attended by sixty experts from various ministries and different bodies from both countries, led to the signing of a comprehensive document that defines the main areas in which both countries will implement joint projects.
The Algerian-Italian rapprochement does not seem isolated in light of the global energy crisis race. Before Draghi arrives in Algeria, an Italian delegation moved to the German capital, Berlin, to discuss ways to overcome this crisis, as well as sign a bilateral solidarity agreement that could include gas sharing, as well as initiating the search for additional sources of gas supply, a meeting attended by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his German counterpart Annalina Barbock.
After Rome became an exceptional partner for Algeria in the field of gas, indications appeared in the offing of the birth of the Algiers-Rome-Berlin axis, which is looking for an alternative to Russian gas, which opens the way for Italy to export gas shipments in excess of it to Germany, which is the axis that began to take shape and this in response to the undeclared alliance between Spain and France, which was the cause of the current tension between Algeria and Madrid.