Giorgia Meloni harnesses spirit of Mattei to wean Italy off Russian energy

By Vincenzo Caccioppoli

FOUR months on from her unprecedented election victory, it has become well known that the new Italian premier Giorgia Meloni is, for all the controversies around her ideology, a determined leader. 

After sweeping the September 25 elections and becoming the first female prime minister in Italian history, she threw herself headlong into the enterprise of bringing her country out of the serious economic crisis caused by the rise in inflation and the war in Ukraine. 

To do this, in addition to having dedicated a large part of the latest Italian budget maneuverto controlling and reducing energy bills for businesses and families, Giorgia Meloni has also looked at foreign policy to try to resolve a problem that Italy, just as much of Europe has been carrying around for years: the excessive dependence on Russian oil and gas. 

Such imports covered more than 45 per cent of the country’s energy needs until the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. 

The clear objective of the Italian premier is to replace Russian gas in two years with that of Libya, Algeria and Egypt, which are rich in this precious raw material. 

Her recent trips to Libya and Algeri, have the clear intention of realizing a sort of re-edition of the “Mattei” plan ” from the 1960s named after the former Italian president of Eni, the Italian oil company. 

The “Mattei formula”, as heralded by Prime Minister Meloni, in very simple words envisaged a modus operandi oriented towards collaboration and not just exploitation, a policy far from any neo-colonialist temptation, which also actively operated in the interest of the peoples of the African territory. 

Giorgia Meloni, who had already had bitter controversies in this sense with France, accused of still exploiting some former colonies thanks to the use of the CFA franc, controlled to all effects by the French Central Bank, in 14 African states, seems to want to bet to a new, more open and collaborative attitude, which seeks to have a fairer and more equal exchange with the countries of the area. 

She appears to want to work on the basis of what Mattei said sixty years ago: “We want to develop Africa’s resources, so that the continent can grow. We have invested in domestic capital since the beginning to promote local development. The key to everything is access to energy to bring about development and stability, allowing Africa to exploit its potential for growth”.

 The success of the recent Italian expedition to Algeria and Libya, with the closing of important agreements, was certainly the beginning of that strategy with which the premier has in mind to put Italy back to the center stage in Africa. 

In short, the Prime Minister’s clear intention is to use to her advantage the current difficulties in North Africa of French president Macron (France has certainly been the most interested rival in the Maghreb area since the times of Mattei) and of the Spanish premier Sanchez, due to the diplomatic rupture of the breaking of a cooperation pact with Algeria, a few months ago. 

All of this has already allowed Italy to strengthen its relations with Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Egypt as to increase supplies with new quantities of gas. 

It will be seen how this strategy can be reconciled with the same aspirations that Emanuel Macron could have in the area.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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