Milan: 10th September
Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri visited Italy to attend Gastech, a landmark event in the industry’s calendar which was held in Milan between 5th-8th September 2022. He was welcomed at Milan airport by Dr. Neena Malhotra, India’s Ambassador to Italy and San Marino along with Ms. Jamir, India’s consul General to Milan. Puri’s visit to Italy comes at a time where Europe has firmly pit itself against Russia, which is its chief supplier of gas, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Minister Puri participated in the plenary session of Gastech on the 5th of September as well as met with outgoing Italian under secretary of state for foriegn affairs, Manlio De Stefano, where they discussed bilateral issues. The Draghi government in Italy has fallen and amid political turmoil in Europe due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and rising fuel prices and inflation, Italy goes to the polls on the 25th of September.
The Minister had an interactive session with the Indian diaspora in Milan at an event organized by the Indian consulate. He commended the sizable and growing Indian community in Italy for its perseverance and contribution to India and Italy relations.
He conducted important bilateral meetings on the sidelines of Gastech with attending colleagues including Tarek El Molla,Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas of Egypt. During his stay in Italy he also met with the CEOs of ENI, the global Italian oil and gas giant and Maire Techmont, a leading Italian company in the Oil and Gas segment. He visited the SNAM Gas Storage Plant at Bordolano where he was received by SNAM’s Chairperson Monica De Virgilis.
SNAM, which operates Italy’s national gas pipeline, illustrated the production of biomethane, hydrogen blending in pipelines which is fundamental for India’s energy transition to renewable energies. During the G20 heads of state summit in Rome in October 2021, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had made a commitment to Prime Minister Modi in Italy’s assistance to India’s energy transition. SNAM is an important technological player globally in the transition to new and renewable energies, specially in the field of gas.
India will continue to buy oil from Russia and also intends to increase imports of liquefied gas. Two days after the acceleration of the G7 on the “price cap” and while the energy crisis in Europe becomes more and more dramatic, New Delhi closed the door to any attempt to engage it in a Russian boycott, Puri was reported to have commented.
“We have had discussions on the issue with the G7 but we make decisions based on our national interests and we must ensure the constant availability of fuels at affordable prices,” said Puri. Sole 24 Ore, a leading Italian economic newspaper, reported how Puri’s discussion at the inaugural session changed the tone of Gastech, which had started out with solidarity and European unity towards Ukraine.
In circumstances like these, “the unity of the EU is severely tested” – Joao Galamba,the Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy, acknowledged, “but to survive the winter we need solidarity not only in intentions but also in facts”, he warned. 5th September was paradoxically a volatile day for gas at the markets, with a net increase of over 30% in less than a week, 12.4% only on Monday. Europe heads to a cold winter shortly, with skyrocketing gas and energy prices with Russian President Vladimir Putin showing no intention of backing down on his invasion which Russia considers a surgical military intervention. Despite European unity supporting Ukraine so far there is a great risk that in the upcoming crisis each EU country will think of saving itself as not everyone suffers the impact of an energy shock to the same extent. Shocks that take on more dramatic proportions every day. Puri’s statement seemed to start that dialogue, which has largely been avoided in the EU so far on what member states may do in the upcoming winter. While both the US and the EU plan to provide a huge gas and energy subsidy, the terms of any such subsidy are not clear. What is also not clear if the countries plan to do “whatever it takes” to keep the gas prices stable for their citizens.
Puri’s visit to Italy was also important to keep India’s international policies underlined in the global narrative with India starting to flex its muscles as one of the global powers.