Italy plays on historic heartstrings with Algeria to boost critical energy ties

© Algerian presidency via Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailed Algeria as Rome’s “most stable, strategic and long-standing” partner in North Africa as she wrapped up a two-day visit on Monday aimed at securing Italy’s energy supplies and promoting her plan for a “non-predatory” approach to investment on the continent.

Meloni, who leads Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II, was making her first bilateral visit abroad since her election last year, underscoring the importance given to Rome’s relationship with gas-rich Algeria at a time when European nations are racing to wean their economies off Russian gas.

Like all ranking visitors, Meloni began her trip by laying a wreath at the Monument of Martyrs, the hilltop memorial commemorating Algerians who died in the country's struggle for independence from France. Her own country’s contribution to that struggle was the subject of a later stop in central Algiers, at a garden dedicated to Enrico Mattei, the legendary founder of the Italian energy company ENI, who championed – and bankrolled – Algeria’s independence fight in the 1950s and early 60s.

Meloni was accompanied by ENI’s current boss Matteo Descalzi, the chief architect of Italy’s ongoing pivot from Russian gas to Algerian gas. Their visit to the Mattei gardens was symbolic of a rapprochement dictated both by interest and historical affinity.

“In Algerian eyes, ENI is a lot more than a company. It’s a symbol of Italo-Algerian friendship and of a relationship that dates back to before independence,” said the Algerian political journalist Akram Kharief.

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