“Today we’re opening up a new road that will benefit the Italian economy, and in these times we know just how useful that is”. Speaking was Prime Minister Mario Monti, at the end of the second Italian-Algerian summit that took place today, 14 November 2012, in Algiers. Monti was referring to the five agreements signed at the summit on the subjects of energy, defence, industry and combating terrorism. The Prime Minister, who was accompanied by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi, Economic Development, Corrado Passera, Home Affairs, Annamaria Cancellieri, and Defence, Giampaolo Di Paola, defined the day’s work as being “intensive and highly productive in terms of bilateral relations”. He noted that this was the first bilateral summit between Italy and Algeria since 2007.
Strategic agreements on energy, defence, industry and combating terrorism
“The Algerian President, Bouteflika, and the government have asked Italy to stand at Algeria’s side as sponsor to help promote the country’s economic development and diversification, given its current extremely high dependency on energy resources”. A request which, continued Monti, Italy willingly accepts, not least because the partnership agreements signed today have no precedents with any other country and thus pave the way to “a new road that is to the benefit of the Italian economy”.
Economic and commercial exchanges, especially in the energy sector, and international policy, most notably dialogue and integration between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, were the focus of the Italian-Algerian summit. The preparations for today’s summit opened with Minister Terzi’s visit to Algiers in March 2012. The agreements reached today include one on boosting bilateral maritime traffic and streamlining bureaucratic procedures, signed by the Deputy Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Mario Ciaccia, and his Algerian counterpart, Amar Tou.
Italian SMEs and energy
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play an important role in Algeria, with over 180 Italian SMEs present in the country. Energy is a priority sector, in which several Italian companies, including ENI and ENL, have a presence. Algeria is Italy’s first supplier of natural gas, at present covering 35% of our national requirement. An important issue currently under discussion is the inter-governmental agreement signed in 2007 for the construction of a second, important gas pipeline (GALSI) linking Algeria to Sardinia, and from there to Tuscany.
Alongside the GALSI project, for which economic feasibility studies are under way, is the renewable energy sector, for which the Algerian government has announced a substantial investment plan.
The goal, therefore, is to strengthen Italy and Algeria’s commercial relations, which are already showing robust growth. In 2011, Italy was Algeria’s second trading partner (its second customer, after the USA, and second supplier, after France), while in the first half of 2012 we have risen to first place. Our main import is natural gas, while our exports to Algiers are led by industrial equipment and machinery.