Italian PM Pushes Mattei Plan for North Africa
In her visits to Algeria Jan. 23 and Libya Jan. 25, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni laid the first brick of what she calls her “Mattei Plan” for Africa. In Algeria, four memoranda of understanding were signed on energy, small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), and space science. In Libya, the Italian oil and gas company ENI and its Libyan counterpart NOC signed an $8 billion deal for gas exploration.
Although professing noble intentions – hence the reference to Italian anti-colonialist leader Enrico Mattei – Meloni’s mission was motivated by the urgency of finding substitutes for Russian gas supplies, in the framework of anti-Russian sanctions. In her press conference with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Meloni stressed that her government aims “for a partnership to increase prospects for growth, with a view to building bridges between the shores of the Mediterranean and stabilizing the region, which is strategic for Italy and Europe. We need a Mattei plan for Africa, on an equal basis with the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to turn crises into opportunities.”
As for energy supplies, Algeria has already replaced Russia as the largest gas exporter to Italy, with 25 billion cubic meters pumped through the Transmed pipeline. The pipeline has a total capacity of 30 billion m³, so Algeria could only supply 5 billion more in the short term – provided it can be extracted. The two countries signed a deal to build a second pipeline, but it will take years to complete. Russia is therefore still supplying 11 billion m³, which Italy must find somewhere else.
In Libya, the deal struck by Rome with Tripoli was immediately attacked by the faction controlling Cyrenaica, led by Gen. Haftar. This does not bode well for the future.
Meloni’s strategy toward Algeria is paradoxical, as it is allied with Russia and has applied to join the BRICS. Furthermore, as many have remarked, Enrico Mattei pursued a policy of friendship and cooperation with Russia. He struck an oil-for-technology deal with the Soviet Union in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, and even threatened to take Italy out of NATO if the confrontation policy continued. The Meloni government, on the contrary, is cowardly aligned with NATO policies, including the supply of modern SAMP-T anti aircraft defense systems.