Combined energy and defense. These two – along with the sensitive question of welcoming Ukrainian refugees – are the main topics of discussion at the Brussels table. Two fairly busy days, yesterday morning began with the extraordinary NATO summit, continued with the meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, and will end with the European Council that began in the late afternoon yesterday, and will conclude the day after lunch. In the middle, to underscore the extraordinary nature of the moment, there are some bilateral parties already on the agenda (such as the meeting with Turkey’s Erdogan or the meeting with Dutch Ruta) and others face-to-face that, although with no trappings of a diplomatic meeting, was no less important (such as exchange views with Biden).
On the other hand, in confrontations between two people specifically, Draghi tries to move on the active front. He did this with Erdogan, face to face, as he also discussed the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline that starts from Azerbaijan and crosses all of Turkey, leading to the creation of the so-called “Southern Corridor”. On the other hand, he spoke to Biden about liquid gas and oil, with whom he also addressed the sensitive issue of grain supplies. The same issues that Italy brought to the table in its talks with Canada, net heat waves and droughts in 2021, one of the major wheat producers. On the other hand, Draghi explains, for both energy security and agri-food “the answer is a combination of diversification, EU internal policy measures and aid”. The first thing, ‘we do it’, is an attempt to ‘change the sources of supply’. In other words, the Prime Minister, during his meeting with journalists at the entrance to the Council of the European Union, adds, “Europe wants to become independent of Russian gas.” Regarding the “EU domestic policy” measures, the gas market “is doing poorly” because “prices are speculative” and therefore “actions must be taken”. The third pillar of this strategy is instead “help that should come from the United States, Canada and the major producers of liquid gas.”
After participating in the NATO and G7 summits, Draghi spoke of a cohesive international community. “If I had to sum up in two words – he says – unity and solidarity would describe these meetings well.” In effect, the Allies agreed to “condemn the aggression against Ukraine” and to “maintain and possibly worsen the sanctions.” This last point is rather delicate. Because Italy is moving cautiously on this issue, and also because of our country’s heavy dependence on Russian gas. In short, the unspoken hope is that the Berlin line will eventually prevail and not the Washington or London line.
On the other hand, Draghi adds, the penalties are “described as extraordinarily effective”. He adds that the Russian economy has turned out to be “extremely weak”. At Putin’s request to pay for gas supplies in rubles, the prime minister is frank: “It’s basically a breach of contract.” Finally, we discuss the issue of refugees. A “human tragedy” that “must be confronted not only at the European level but at the global level.”
In the background, the separation of weapons, one of the central themes of the NATO summit. Italy reiterated its willingness to send other men to the eastern frontier and further armament. A position that the Italian government adopts with some clarity, perhaps also to silence the many differences within the majority. Draghi, on the other hand, is perhaps the only European prime minister with an internal ringworm problem – M5s and Lega – for those arguing against the 2% of GDP target for military spending. It is precisely Conte’s threat to bring down the government that they are asking the Prime Minister to hold them accountable when he joins the Council of the European Union. “I – it is just a response – I have reaffirmed the commitment made by all other NATO countries.”
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