In the midst of the Ukrainian invasion, Italy continues to accelerate its moves to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. For this, Algeria is one of the most attractive and viable options for Rome, which is why Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will visit Algiers next week.
The reason for his trip remains the same: to satisfy its gas needs, in the shadow of other countries that have tried to set themselves up as alternatives for Italy, such as Qatar, Azerbaijan and Mozambique. However, these three countries have not managed to offer the same as Algeria, which is considered the favourite option for new gas supplies to Italy.
Draghi will reportedly visit Italy accompanied by senior officials from the energy sector and related Italian companies, as well as other government officials.
The Italian delegation has been invited by Algerian President Abdelmadjd Tebboune, who has described the upcoming visit as "important" in the midst of the energy crisis that has hit Europe. In this sense, Algeria has already made its move on the issue of European gas, underlining a position that leaves no room for doubt. While the price of gas will remain constant for the rest of the European countries, Spain will suffer a "moderate" rise in gas prices.
This new disposition on the part of Algiers comes as a result of Spain's new stance on the Western Sahara issue. Spain has opened a new diplomatic stage with Morocco after declaring that Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is the "most serious, realistic and credible" solution. His Moroccan counterpart, Aziz Ajanouch, pointed out that this new decision by Madrid "is the best position in the general interest of Spain".
Spain's position is clear and this has become evident after the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, travelled to Rabat to meet with the Moroccan king, Mohamed VI. This meeting was even more significant as it took place in the middle of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims.
In this way, the Moroccan government has performed the "iftar" accompanied by the Spanish president, which further demonstrates the good harmony that now exists between the two kingdoms.
In all this diplomatic frenzy, Italy will try to take advantage of this situation to position itself as one of Algiers' favourite clients. This is evidenced by the Italian prime minister declaring that Italy is likely to obtain "approximately ten billion cubic metres of gas pipelines from Algeria, Libya and Azerbaijan during the current year". He added that he expects this number to exceed 20 billion cubic metres by 2024.
These statements come just five months after Italian President Sergio Mattarella's visit to Algeria, a meeting that was described as "historic" as it was the first in 18 years. The talks sealed a consensus of common visions on "multiple issues" that paved the way for new energy cooperation.
Regarding these relations between Rome and Algiers, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Matteo Di Stefano indicated that 'Algeria is a strategic and essential partner for Italy, noting that it is the second largest supplier of gas to Italy after Russia'.
In this respect, Italy obtains around 40% of its Russian gas imports through a contract signed between the Sonatrach complex and Italy's Eni. This signature, with an estimated investment of 1.4 billion dollars, demonstrates the important strategic relationship that they intend to build in this new bilateral rapprochement.
These documents were signed by Sonatrach's CEO and Eni's CEO, in the presence of the Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab and the Italian Ambassador to Algeria Giovanni Bugliazi, in December two years ago.
In addition to the gas contract, the two representatives signed a second document related to the development plan for the South Berkine project, a project that seeks to execute exploration and development work in an accelerated manner with the objective of reducing the time required for production and commercialisation to exploitation of the existing facilities at the level of the Manzel Lajamat fields.
Alongside this, a "strategic agreement" in the renewable energy sector has been presented, which aims to strengthen cooperation in the field of technology, as well as to further develop efforts to reduce the carbon footprint through solar energy and the production of biofuels and the production of so-called green and blue hydrogen.
These energy agreements could rival Morocco's plan to remain the leading country in the MENA region in the use of renewable energies, something it has achieved thanks to the kingdom's sustained emphasis on the use of environmentally friendly routes for both energy consumption and production.
Morocco has invested 5.65 billion dollars in renewable energies, a figure that has been recognised by the technology magazine MIT Technology Review, which ranked it first among the countries in the region that are most committed to the use of renewable energies.