by Nicola De Felice (candidate for Lazio Regional Council for Fratelli d'Italia in the constituency of Rome and province)

During the so-called First Republic, spanning from the immediate postwar period to Tangentopoli, Italian foreign policy, in addition to reaffirming its affiliation with the West and the Atlantic Alliance (by the way, already decided at Jalta), was directed toward two basic directions, the pan-European (with the role played by Italy in the construction of the European Union) and the Mediterranean (centered on the special attention given to North Africa).

This Mediterranean strategy can be said to have been outlined by Enrico Mattei's privileged relationship with Gamal Nasser's Egypt and support for the Algerian independence struggle. A strategy that was agreed upon not only by all the Christian Democrat thoroughbreds (Fanfani, Moro and Andreotti) but also by Bettino Craxi who, precisely because of the role he played during the transition at the helm of Tunisia between Bourghiba and Ben Ali, later chose this country as the place of his exile. A strategic line also followed by Silvio Berlusconi who, with a choice of real politik, decided to overcome the serious misunderstandings that followed the 1970 expulsion of Italians from Libya by Gaddafi and to assign a fast track to relations with that country.

The reckless destabilization wrought by the so-called Arab Springs, culminating in October 2011 with the tragic death of the Libyan dictator, also resulted in the abrupt termination of Italian foreign policy in the Mediterranean area. Everything was limited to problems related to the rescue at sea of illegal migrants and the albeit more than justified attempt to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Giulio Regeni. Otherwise, Italy, for about a decade, has as if disappeared from a scenario that has become economically even more important after the doubling in 2015 of the Suez Canal and increasingly turbulent politically with the accentuated Russian and Turkish presence, civil wars in Syria and Libya, the continuing Israeli-Palestinian issue, the appearance of Isis, and increased migration flows. The doubling of Suez has produced a significant reduction in travel time (from 19 to 11 hours), a 100 percent increase in the number of ships in transit and their increased tonnage. There has been an exponential increase in cargo traffic, and today about 30 percent of the world's maritime trade transits the Mediterranean.

Italy, stretched out in the Mediterranean almost to the shores of Africa, looked like a sleeping giant. Two extremely important facts came to sound the alarm: the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the resulting energy crisis and the Right leading a new national government. It was immediately apparent that a different wind was blowing, a broader and more pragmatic vision. The first step that many underestimated was the revival of a common front, the MED5, of the EU countries that had suffered most from illegal immigration. Then it was noted a much larger role granted to ENI, which, after Mattei's death, had seen its importance diminish and its freedom to maneuver restricted, as if it had been invited to operate quietly so as not to be a nuisance. Subsequently, in the wake of what had already been done by the previous government, which, however, had moved a bit everywhere on the wave of the emergency, it gave Algeria not only the role of Italy's first energy supplier (resurrecting, among other things, the construction of the Galsi pipeline, culpably abandoned in 2017 by the then PD president of Sardinia Pigliaru), but also by flanking that country on the road that will lead it in the future to be a major exporter of "green" hydrogen, that is, produced from renewable energy.

L’Italia e il Grande Gioco nel Levante

Almost in parallel there was, with a good dose of pragmatism, the realization that Turkey, which has 8300 km of coastline on that sea, cannot be excluded from any project to exploit the immense energy potential existing in the eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps finding good backing in Erdogan, who must have understood how a policy of mediation is almost always more fruitful than one of confrontation. Even with Egypt's subsequent involvement and now with PM Meloni's visit to Tripoli, it seems clear that the new government's action responds, albeit still in its embryonic state, to a broad strategy that is already beginning to be named the Mattei Plan. A pacifying strategy that aims to establish a pool of supplier countries convinced to put aside, by virtue of common economic interest, historical grudges and political rivalries. With Italy, turning crisis into opportunity, to become the energy hub for much of Europe.

It is a difficult but inspiring challenge that will most likely have to take into account competition from Spain, which has similar ambitions and is ahead of the game for the moment thanks to its 6 regasifiers. But Italy has on its side the greater geographical centrality, ENI's accumulated experience in the field since the 1950s, a fleet of pipelaying vessels that has built subsea pipelines in every part of the world.

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Senior Fellow of the Centro Studi Machiavelli. Admiral of division (res.), former commander of destroyers and frigates, he has held important diplomatic, financial, technical and strategic assignments for the Defence and Navy Chiefs of Staff, both at home and abroad, at sea and on land, pursuing the application of capabilities aimed at making the Italian defence and security policy effective.