| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Italy looks to boost energy ties with Qatar in wake of Ukraine crisis

On Saturday, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio travelled to Qatar for two days of discussions on strengthening energy cooperation, as Rome ramped up attempts to secure fresh gas supplies in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis.

Underscoring the rapid push to strengthen ties with the gas-rich Gulf state, Prime Minister Mario Draghi also met with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, with energy high on the agenda, according to Draghi’s office.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West imposed broad sanctions that threaten to impede commodity flows, creating the prospect of gas shortages, outages, and significant price spikes.

Italy is particularly vulnerable. It generates 40% of its power using gas, and imports meet more than 90% of its gas requirements. Last year, Russia accounted for 40% of those imports, and the administration has stated that it wishes to reduce its dependency.

Di Maio travelled to Qatar with the head of Italian energy group Eni , Claudio Descalzi. The previously unannounced trip follows a visit by the two men to Algeria on Monday, where they asked for more gas supplies.

“We are working to increase our gas supplies in the short, medium and long term, to avoid any kind of blackmail and to have alternatives to Russian gas,” Di Maio said in a statement on Saturday.

“We must act quickly to stem the potential economic effects of this war that is being waged by the Russian government and protect Italian families and businesses.”

Energy Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani was quoted as saying on Saturday that Italy aimed to rapidly cut more than half its Russian gas import and to be independent of Russian supplies within two or three years.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper, Cingolani said he and Draghi would meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Monday to discuss placing a price cap on the purchase of Russian gas supplies.

“In an emergency period, one can fix a maximum price … above which European operators cannot buy,” he said, adding that the move was needed to prevent Russia’s Gazprom profiting from surging energy prices.

  • Reuters