One would think that if you were the head of a multinational energy firm based in a country that imports 87% of its energy, you would be worried, or at least mildly perturbed, regarding the dramatic escalations in the natural gas dispute between Russia and the Ukraine which caused huge reductions in supply across Europe today.
Not Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italy’s national champ Eni, who is working hard to reassure Italian consumers and European policymakers that there’s nothing to worry about, reiterating that Gazprom remains a perfectly reliable supplier. Perhaps following a suggestion from their Russian business partner, Reuters has quoted a statement from Eni that “We can look at the crisis underway between Russia and Ukraine and the repercussions over the next few weeks on Italy’s energy security with serenity.“
It’s not that Eni’s corporate leadership is foolish: once upon a time, Scaroni gave a speech to urgently warn that Italy faced a threat from increasing dependency on Russian gas. But a few months later, the Italian group signed a contract to become Gazprom’s largest European client. Nowadays it appears that Scaroni has become much more enthusiastic about everything the Kremlin does, not unlike Gerhard Schröder. Later on, Eni was convinced to become one of the first foreign companies to participate in an auction of illegally expropriated assets from Yukos – namely the stolen 20% stake in Gazprom Neft (a demonstration of sticky power). At the time, Eni insisted that they had every intention of keeping this Russian acquisition, and not just sell it back to the state – because really, wouldn’t that just be asset laundering? Unfortunately nobody really noticed what happened later on, when Gazprom exercised its call option to take back these assets for less money than even Eni paid.
So like the popular episode of the American sitcom Seinfled, for the time being Scaroni may find solace in the repeated mantra “serenity now,” but as the character warns near the end of the clip, “serenity now, insanity later.”