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ENERGY

‘Peace or air conditioning?’ Italy vows to follow EU on Russian gas embargo

As the EU weighs new sanctions on Russia following atrocities in Ukraine, Italy's government said it will support measures including a possible gas embargo.

'Peace or air conditioning?' Italy vows to follow EU on Russian gas embargo
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy will “go with the EU” on proposals for further sanctions against Russia. Photo by Aris Oikonomou / AFP.

Italy will “follow the decisions of the European Union” on new sanctions against Russia, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a press conference on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Italy announces plan to end reliance on Russian gas by 2025

“Today the gas embargo is not yet… on the table,” Draghi told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

“It is not a possibility being discussed at the moment, but the situation is constantly evolving.”

“If we are offered a gas embargo, we will follow the EU down this path, we want the most effective instrument to achieve peace,” he said.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.

The growing number of “massacres” in Ukraine “is prompting us to adopt even tougher sanctions,” he said. “All the allied countries are wondering what can be done to stop Russia… We are following what the European Union decides.”

Draghi said “I believe the question is between peace and having working radiators, or air conditioning in summer. I think this is the question we must ask ourselves.”

He pledged that “if gas supplies were to stop today, we would be covered until the end of October with our reserves, there would be no consequences”.

READ ALSO: Italy rejects Russian demand for gas payment in rubles

Draghi, a former ECB chief, also called for a ceiling on gas prices.

“I have been asking for some time to put a ceiling on the price of gas, that would be the most rational thing at the collective, European level.”

“The EU has extraordinary power in the market, it is in fact the only buyer,” he said.

This power “can be exercised through the establishment of a price that is remunerative but not extravagant like the one we have now.”

He said the EU would make a proposal on a price cap “in a few days, but we can also proceed with national measures.”

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POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived on Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Meloni’s trip – her second to a North African country this week – is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.

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