Between Continuity and Change: the Italian Approach to Energy Security

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Abstract

Italy’s dependence from fossil fuels, coupled with its long-lasting choice to do without nuclear energy in power generation, makes the country highly vulnerable to any shortage affecting both oil and gas sectors, and/or to abnormal increases in their international prices. In both sectors, suppliers are highly concentrated, and this fact, coupled with the lack of domestic production, increases Italian vulnerability. Despite a recent shift in the energy mix, dependence from the international markets will remain, in the foreseeable future, a structural tract of the Italian energy structure. Efforts to override this state of things focus on a ‘whole azimuth’ strategy, aimed at differentiating the supply markets, strengthening the commercial ties already existing with the traditional partners, and putting on stream still unexploited national reserves, especially in southern regions and Sicily. Middle East and North Africa remain key points of reference, but Italy is also involved in Eastern Mediterranean, in the development of alternative routes to the congested Bosporus Straits. From this point of view, infrastructures play an essential role within the framework of the Italian energy security strategy. The opening of new links between the Black Sea, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean would increase Italian reliance on Central Asian and Caucasus oil and gas, and reduce national dependency from its traditional supply markets. Moreover, the opening of these links – coupled with a general improvement of the Italian LNG sector – would enhance Italy’s role as one of the main energy hub in central Mediterranean, and strengthen the country’s overall position in the European oil and gas industry. The other pillar is the development of stronger ties with Russia, for example through the strategic agreement signed with Gazprom in November 2006, the acquisition of Yukos by the Enineftegas consortium (60% ENI; 40% Enel) in April 2007, and the signing in June 2007 of a MOU between ENI and Gazprom for the building and managing of the new ‘South Stream’ pipeline. However, this strategy is deemed to face a strong international competition. Both EU and the US have shown their concerns about the political implications of the South Stream project, which would make Russia – according to its critics – the dominant actor on the European gas market. Turkey’s difficult relations with EU are another important element to deal with. In this perspective, and despite the uncertainties still surrounding the EU INOGATE and TRACECA programmes, an all-European route reaching Vienna and/or the Adriatic coast through the Eastern and Western Balkans seems to enjoy greater favour than a largely Anatolian one, somehow gravitating on South-Eastern Mediterranean, and enhancing Ankara’s bargaining power. Political and economic considerations, both at domestic and international level, will, thus, intermingle in defining Italian strategy’s effective viability. Not to forget the role that Asia’s increasing energy demand will play in the future, and the effects it will have on commercial decisions of the Former Soviet Republics and of the Gulf countries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnergy Security. Visions from Asia and Europe
EditorsANTONIO MARQUINA BARRIO
Pages84-100
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • ENI - Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi
  • Energia, infrastrutture di trasporto
  • Energy, transport infrastructures
  • Human security
  • Italia, relazioni internazionali in campo energetico
  • Italy, energy security
  • Italy, international relations in the energy sector
  • Sicurezza energetica italiana

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