ATHENS – Italy can become an energy hub in the Mediterranean boosting European security of supply, Enrico Letta, former prime minister of Italy, told New Europe in Athens.

“Italy has to become an energy hub because the place, the geographic centrality of Italy in the Mediterranean can help the country to become an energy hub in a period in which energy is changing and in a period in which the market is changing,” Letta said in Vouliagmeni, south of the Greek capital, in the Athens Riviera on February 8. “I think Italy has this opportunity. We have to work in that direction at European level; in a European cooperation it can be positive,” the former Italian premier added. Letta was asked whether the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which is currently in its construction phase, and Russia’s plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline would make Italy an energy hub.

Asked if there was room for Turkish Stream to supply Italy with Russian gas, given that TAP is already being implemented, Letta said: “I don’t know. I know that Italy needs to be very, very strong in continuing the choice that we did on TAP. TAP was the big realisation and I think we have to continue with that”.

TAP will transport Caspian natural gas to Europe. Connecting with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Greek-Turkish border, TAP will cross Northern Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in southern Italy to connect to the Italian natural gas network.

In a recent development, the European Investment Bank said in a press release on February 6 that following detailed discussions, the EIB Board approved the €1.5 billion of financing for TAP. The EIB reminded that the project is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, an initiative identified by the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, and the European Parliament as a strategically important component within the EU’s energy policy (Project of Common Interest).

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing ahead with TurkStream or Turkish Stream, a new export gas pipeline stretching from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea. According to Gazprom, the first string of the pipeline is intended for Turkish consumers, while the second string will deliver gas to southern and southeastern Europe. TurkStream’s offshore section will run over 900 kilometres from the Russkaya CS near Anapa across the Black Sea to the Turkish seaboard, with an onshore string for gas transit to be laid up to Turkey’s border with neighboring countries.

There are discussions to transport gas from the second string of TurkStream natural gas pipeline through Greece to Italy. Gazprom, Greece’s DEPA and Italy’s Edison have signed Memorandums of Understanding to this effect.

In related news, ENI said in a press release on February 8 that the Italian energy giant has made a lean gas discovery in Block 6 Offshore Cyprus with Calypso 1 NFW. The well, which was drilled in 2,074 metres of water depth reaching a final total depth of 3,827 metres, encountered an extended gas column in rocks of Miocene and Cretaceous age. “The Cretaceous sequence has excellent reservoir characteristics. Calypso 1 is a promising gas discovery and confirms the extension of the ‘Zohr like’ play in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone,” ENI said.

ENI has been present in Cyprus since 2013 and detains interests in six licenses located in the EEZ of Cyprus, which proves Italy strong interest in East Med hydrocarbons reserves as a potential supplier to Europe.

Asked if the election early next month would affect Italy’s energy policy, Letta, who is the Dean of Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) at Sciences Po in Paris and the founder of the Scuola di Politiche in Italy, said: “No, I don’t think so. The elections will be on other issues and I think elections will strengthen continuity in Italy”.

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