Guariglia: « Italy does not want to harm Spain in Algeria »

Italy, Algeria, Spain, Gas,

Riccardo Guariglia (Chicago, 1961) is the Italian ambassador to Spain. He arrived with the ship from Genoa to the port of Barcelona two years ago, during the worst moment of the pandemic. From Barcelona to Madrid by car on deserted roads. Few people will have entered Spain like this. Guariglia, of Neapolitan origin, has been ambassador to Poland and head of State’s Diplomatic Protocol. He measures the answers very well and does not shy away from any question.

Q. Italy is knocking on Algeria’s door to expand natural gas purchase contracts with the aim of lessening its dependence on Russia. Italy is offering technological investments to Algeria to expand its capacity to extract gas. Italy has offered itself to Algeria as a platform for the distribution of its gas to the rest of Europe. Is Italy trying to take advantage of the crisis in relations between Spain and Algeria?

A. I categorically deny that assumption. There is no such intention on the part of Italy. Our country is only trying to become independent from Russian supplies [40% as far as natural gas is concerned]. Italy is much more dependent on Russia than Spain. What is Italy doing? Italy is visiting its other suppliers to extend the contracts. I am referring to Azerbaijan, Egypt, Mozambique, Congo, Angola,and Algeria. With Algeria we have a gas pipeline that has not been operating at full capacity for years [the Enrico Mattei-Tramsmed gas pipeline, which crosses Tunisia and reaches Sicily by underwater pipeline] and we have proposed to make more use of it. I don’t think that harms Spain.

Q. Have you discussed it with the Spanish Government?

A. I know that the Spanish Government understands this. We are not trying to influence relations between Algeria and Spain at all. We do not want to harm anyone, and I must add that relations between Italy and Spain are in one of their best moments.

Q. Does Italy support the resumption of the Midcat, the gas pipeline that was supposed to reinforce the connection with the rest of Europe through the Catalan Pyrenees, paralyzed more than three years ago?

A. Italy supports the resumption of the Midcat. [SNAM, a public company that manages the Italian gas network, has 40% of Téréga, a company that manages the gas network in the south of France].

Q. Has the Italian Government spoken with the French about the resumption of Midcat?

A. As ambassador to Spain, I cannot specify this for you, but I can tell you that we are in communication with the Spanish Government about interconnections. Italy has also proposed the possibility of an offshore gas pipeline between Barcelona and the Italian terminal in Livorno (Tuscany). A feasibility study is being carried out on this gas pipeline, which is cited in the latest EU document on energy policy (Repower EU plan). At the same time, work is being done on the hypothesis of a maritime corridor connecting Barcelona and the Livorno and La Spezia plants through a chain of small LNG transport vessels. With eight LNG regasification plants [seven in Spain and one in Portugal], the Iberian Peninsula has a large capacity. This is an important fact. The goal is for Europe to be as independent as possible from Russian gas. Any initiative to open new routes and obtain better supplies must be considered strategic.

Q. Let’s go back to North Africa. Do Italy and Spain share the same criteria on the policy that should be developed in relation to North Africa?

A. Both countries are two main actors in the Mediterranean. Italy has always wanted to reinforce stability in this region, developing economic and political relations between the two Mediterranean shores that are mutually advantageous. We are very involved in seeking stability in Libya [a country in a state of civil war for ten years] and we are also seeking stability in the Sahel, a key region for the fight against terrorism and action against illegal migration. North Africa is, in turn, a heterogeneous group of countries and its specificities must be considered. Italy considers it very important, for example, to promote investments in the generation of renewable energies in North Africa and in the manufacture of green hydrogen, which will be one of the energy vectors of the future. Our objectives are surely very similar to those of Spain.

Q. We were talking before about the relations between Italy and Spain. You claimed that they are better than ever. It hasn’t always been this way. There were moments of manifest coldness. Romano Prodi ended up angry with José María Aznar. Silvio Berlusconi and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero cannot be said to have been in communion. Matteo Renzi and Mariano Rajoy ignored each other…

A. I think that now we are facing a very consolidated relationship. These last two years there has been a real leap in quality. In the very delicate situation that we are experiencing, Italy and Spain have matured the conviction of making a common front in many aspects. During the negotiation of the Next Generation EU plans (pandemic), Spain and Italy acted jointly. Now, there is a close collaboration before the war in Ukraine. There is a lot of communication between the two governments.

La Vanguardia, Juny 07, 2022

#Spain #Italy #Algeria #Gas