A few days ago, the CEO of the Italian energy group Eni told everybody he felt calm and “serene” with regard to Gazprom’s decision to cut off all gas flowing through the Ukraine, leaving half a dozen countries freezing. Naturally, Paolo Scaroni explained, Italy started to diversify its supply sources after the first cutoff in 2006 from places such as North Africa (Eni owns 98% of Italy’s natural gas storage facilities).
However what the Italians failed to mention is that the Russians have already pre-empted the North African gas market – going so far as to develop cooperation agreements with both Algeria and Libya, and are even proposing to build a mega-pipeline up to Europe all the way from Nigeria. It seems that you aren’t going to escape the grip of Gazprom no matter where you look.
One reason why Eni might want to diminish fears about Gazprom is because they have gotten so deep into bed with the company, and are relying on their joint venture with the Russian state firm in order to further penetrate Libya – which is about to receive its first American ambassador in some 36 years. According to a story in the Washington Times, the Americans don’t like it one bit that Italy is working so hard to help Russia control Libyan gas exports to Europe through their asset swap deal (which could put the pipelines to the continent under Russian control), as it reflects a decrease in competition and ever more political influence for Moscow over Europe.