Salvini to discuss with Tony Blair Trans Adriatic Pipeline

Salvini to discuss with Tony Blair Trans Adriatic Pipeline

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini intends to meet with Tony Blair in Rome, advising on the Trans-Adriatic gas pipeline project, which is designed to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, Interfax writes with a reference to The Guardian. ''The Italian far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, will meet the former British prime minister Tony Blair in Rome to discuss controversial plans to extend a gas pipeline that will run from Azerbaijan to Puglia in southern Italy''. The date of this meeting is not specified in the article.

Blair's position

Blair has worked as a consultant on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline since 2014, which is the pet project of Azerbaijan’s strongman president, Ilham Aliyev. Blair’s office did not offer any direct comment on the reason for the meeting, but Salvini said he was willing to hear from Blair on the pipeline, and other issues. Blair’s strong views on the dangers of populism make him an unlikely choice to persuade Salvini of the value of the pipeline. Blair has toned down his commercial lobbying since heading up his new Institute for Global Change, a movement dedicated to combating populism and its causes. He said in a recent speech that the simplistic solutions provided by rampant nationalism of the kind advocated by Salvini’s League could lead to a return to 1930s fascism.

Opinions within the country

The governing Italian coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League is divided on the gas pipeline issue. In July, Salvini said he would support the pipeline project, claiming it would help drive down gas prices in Italy, where there was little competition in the energy market. “The south of Italy needs infrastructure,’’ he said. “We need to move forward.’’ A few days later, Barbara Lezzi, the M5S minister for the south, responded, saying: “We do need infrastructure: we need roads, schools, train stations,” but suggested that the building of the pipeline would be useless and harmful. Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of M5S, said: “The party has not changed its mind over the building of the pipeline.’’

It was reported in May, that the Five Star Movement is actively fighting the construction of the Trans Adriatic gas pipeline. In late April, three representatives of the movement - Senator Daniela Donna and Congressmen Leonardo Donno and Diego de Lorezis - filed a complaint at the prosecutor's office against TAP AG, which is engaged in the construction of the gas pipeline. Their first claim is to encircle the construction zone with a three-meter fence, that is according to the representatives of the Five Star Movement, is a violation of the Italian law on the preservation of the landscape. In addition, 448 olive trees were temporarily transplanted due to the construction of the gas pipeline, and this was done in April, and not in January and February, as indicated in the documents.

According to the representative of the TAP, the company did not violate any laws, and the suspension can last about two weeks, which will not affect the deadlines for the final delivery of the project, scheduled for 2020. The total length of the TAP is 878 km, of which 550 km will pass through the northern part of Greece, 215 km through the territory of Albania, 105 km through the Adriatic Sea and 8 km through Italy. The project is designed to transport natural gas from the Shah Deniz field in the framework of the Stage-2 of its development through Greece and Albania to Western Europe. The co-owners of the project are the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (20%), BP (20%), Snam (20%), Fluxys (19%), Enagas (16%) and Axpo (5%).