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Gazprom’s North African Adventures

The last time Gazprom played around with deals and “memorandums of understanding” in North Africa, it was the con of the decade: The preemptively announced cooperation agreement with Algeria’s state-held exporter Sonatrach, which terrified Europe and cornered Italian companies into hasty agreements with Gazprom. Never mind that in the end the scary deal turned out to be a bluff – but by then it was too late. Today’s news might be more substantial…

…than just your typical Gazprom PR (see Nigeria and Bolivia). The Financial Times is reporting that the asset-sharing agreement between Eni and Gazprom (not the first joint project these two companies are involved in) could result in Russia gaining control over sizable natural gas assets in Libya – a prospect that many find discomforting in Europe.According to a column posted on RIA Novosti, “Gazprom wants to have a share in Libyan deposits. Last year, it bought an exploration and development license for Block 19 there, with gas reserves comparable to the reserves of the South Russkoye gas deposit in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area in the northeast Urals. It plans to invest $300 million in the project within four years.“It is problematic, to say the least, that Eni is lending such enormous assistance to Gazprom’s ambitions to exercise influence over more and more of Europe’s energy supply. However it is not difficult to see how this relationship has arrived to this point – after forcing Eni to play a role as an asset launderer by acquiring property from an auction of stolen Yukos assets, the Russians really have a gun to their head, now that the Italians have been made complicit in a state theft. The proud Italian national energy champion has even taken on a Gazprom-style of non-transparency in their statements, elliptically referring to the Libyan deal in the vaguest of terms. That or perhaps the Russians surprised them with this announcement…