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Monday, July 03, 2006

Italy Mulls Opening Its Markets to Gazprom

July 3, 2006 - The Associated Press - Russia and Italy are working on a reciprocal deal that will open the Italian market to natural gas behemoth Gazprom and allow Italian energy giant Eni to drill for gas in Russia, the Italian foreign minister said Friday. "We are currently discussing a new agreement between Gazprom and Eni," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. "It is a new type of deal that will open up our markets for Gazprom, so that it can sell its gas directly in Italy rather than through Italian firms," D'Alema said. Gazprom is pursuing a strategy whereby foreign energy companies will be allowed to tap into its nearly 30 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves on the condition that Gazprom is given access to Europe's lucrative retail and distribution markets. Gazprom is the biggest gas producer in the world and supplies 25 percent of the gas that Europe consumes. Italy is Gazprom's biggest customer, after Germany. The European Union's reliance on Russian gas was highlighted by a New Year's price fight between Moscow and Kiev that temporarily disrupted supplies to Europe. The dispute led to calls by European officials to diversify supplies away from a dependence on Gazprom and demands that Russia allow foreign and independent producers access to its export pipeline.

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