MILAN, June 25 Italy's Industry minister
Federica Guidi landed in Algeria on Wednesday to discuss issues
including energy supplies from the gas and oil producer.
Italy, which derives more than 40 percent of its electricity
from natural gas, is increasingly dependent on Russia as
Algerian imports decline and Libyan supplies remain vulnerable.
But unrest in Ukraine, a major transit route for Russian gas
into the European Union, has also raised a question mark over
the stability of future gas flows from Moscow.
Guidi's visit, the first to Algeria by an Italian minister
since November 2012, will be the chance "to confirm the
strategic importance Italy attaches to Algeria, especially as
regards oil and gas supplies," the ministry said.
Italian oil and gas group Eni said it had won three
permits from Algeria's state-owned energy group Sonatrach to
prospect work in the south of the country.
Algeria used to be Italy's biggest gas supplier but, as the
North African country earmarks increasing amounts of production
for domestic use and ships more gas to more remunerative Asian
markets, volumes have declined.
In 2013 Italy imported 40 percent of its gas needs from
Russia, 18 percent from Algeria and 8 percent from Libya.
Last year state-controlled Eni, embroiled in a corruption
case in the country involving its 43 percent owned subsidiary
Saipem, renegotiated its long-term gas contracts, with
Algeria agreeing to cut its imports.
Rome is now placing increasing importance on completing the
Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will bring Azeri gas to Italy
But at the same time it is supporting the massive South
Stream pipeline project that will transport Russian gas into
Europe while bypassing Ukraine.
On Tuesday Russia's Gazprom said it was in
constructive talks with the European Commission about South
Stream which Brussels has disputed.
In her visit on Wednesday Guidi is meeting with Algerian
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal as well as the industry and
Italy takes over the EU presidency in July and the
centre-left government of Matteo Renzi has placed relations with
the Mediterranean area and energy on its agenda.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by William Hardy)