EU and Azerbaijan: Italy Says Yeah to TAP
http://eastbook.eu – Matteo Cazzulani
A step forward toward a united Europe in energy field was made by the Italian Parliament on Thursday, 5 December, when the Lower House ratified an international agreement for the realization of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) between Italy, Albania and Greece. PM Enrico Letta’s Coalition voted in favor of the international Agreement between Italy, Albania and Greece for the realization of TAP, the project which carries natural gas from Azerbaijan and strengthens Italian energy security.
Natural gas reserves (in trillion clubic metres – data: BP world energy statistical review 2012), source: trans-adriatic-pipeline.com
MILAN – The agreement allows the realization in the Italian lands of the last section of TAP, which is planned to deliver gas from Azerbaijan via Greece and Albania. The document also harmonizes the realization of TAP with both Italian and EU legislation, and prevents any negative environmental impact due to pipeline’s realization.
All the parties that pertain to PM Enrico Letta‘s Coalition voted in favor of TAP: center-left Democratic Party (with two MPs who abstained), centrist Civic Choice and the New Center Right group. TAP was also supported by conservative Go Italy and the Italian Socialists, who are not members of Letta’s Governmental Coalition.
Regionalist Northern League, far right wing party Brothers of Italy and left wing party SEL opposed the ratification of TAP, whereas MEPs from populist Five Stars Movement quitted the Lower House after having occupied the House for half a day, in order not to allow TAP approval due to environmental objections.
The Minister of Parliamentary Relationships Dario Franceschini, a member of Letta’s Democratic Party, strongly backed TAP as a project of national interest, whose approval is fundamental to strengthen Italian energy security.
“PM Letta’s energy policy has the goal to make Italy the hub of Azerbaijani gas in the EU: all environmental issues will be discussed between the National Government and Apulia, the region where the pipeline is planed to end in Italy. We need the realization of this project, in order to drop gas prices for the Italian People”, said Vinicio Peluffo, a MP of the Democratic Party.
From Russian unilateralism to a European common strategy
As declared by PM Letta, Italy needs to diversify its national gas supplies from Russian and Algerian quasi monopoly by carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan. In fact, Italy needs to balance the lack of gas supplies from Libya due to Libyan political instability, and must avoid to raise the dependence on Russian gas supplies after the realization of Southstream.
This pipeline, planed by Russian national major Gazprom following a personal agreement between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, aims to deliver from southern Russia to Austria via the Black Sea seabed, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy 63 bcm of russian gas per year: a quantity that increases the Russian hegemony in EU energy market.
However, on Wednesday, 3 November, the European Commission sentenced Southstream as a project that does not respect the Third Energy Package: a EU law that forbid the ownership of a pipeline in the EU by the same company that sells the gas delivered by that pipeline, in order to guarantee a free concurrence in EU energy sector.
The European Commission also condemned bilateral agreements for Southstream realization that Russia already signed with several EU countries, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.
Hopefully, Italy did not sign any agreement with Russia for Southstream realization, despite pro-Russian lobby, which is quite strong in the country, will certainly make pressure in favor of Southstream and against EU laws.
From the political point of view, the approval of the Agreement for the realization of TAP in the Italian Government demonstrates a significant change in Italy’s energy policy: from the pro-Russian era of right wing Berlusconi, Letta’s center-left Government definitively turned energy policy from a Russian unilateralism to a more diversified European perspective.