Conte tells Italian rebel village he is unable to stop TAP pipeline

Protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration opposing the removal of olive trees near the site of the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) gas pipeline project in Melendugno, Lecce province, Apulia region, Southern Italy, 28 March 2017. [Claudio Longo/EPA/EFE]

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has explained why he cannot stop the TAP pipeline project in an open letter to a rebel municipality where the pipeline is expected to come on shore.

Activists in the village of Melendugno in the Puglia region are opposing the construction of the TAP pipeline, a part of the Southern Gas Corridor which is one of the priority energy projects for the European Union.

Italy approves TAP pipeline, but activists attempt to block

Italy gave the green light for the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), one of the core projects of the Southern Gas Corridor. But activists in the Puglia region protested and asked that the pipe be moved further north.

The new Italian government took over with the promise to scrap TAP, but now the authorities acknowledge that the pipeline will have to go ahead.

Italy's Di Maio warns against party divisions after TAP pipeline U-turn

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio called on Monday (29 October) for unity within his 5-Star Movement after the anti-establishment party was forced to renege on an electoral pledge to halt a major, international gas transport project.

In an open letter to the residents of Melendugno, Conte details the reasoning why scrapping TAP is out of the question, and tells them that if they want to blame someone, they can blame him.

The Italian Prime minister starts by saying that he had been strongly on the side of those who protested against the pipeline.

After being appointed as Prime Minister on 1 June, Conte met with the Mayor of Melendugno, together with a delegation from the local community, and also with a large delegation of Puglian Parliamentarians, and told them he was opposed to the project. He said this was a project backed by former governments, and that his cabinet was going to review all authorisation procedures to identify any illegitimate dealings.

But this avenue brought no results.

“The series of verifications carried out does not give us any chance to prevent the realization of the TAP project: for the state, there was no illegality or with the procedural irregularities”, Conte writes.

Further, the Italian Prime Minister also explains in detail how costly it would be for the state to unilaterally renege to its commitments, writing that:

“We can presume that the Italian state would certainly be subject to the following compensation claims:

  1. a) from the Tap consortium and its shareholders (Socar, BP, Snam, Fluxys, Enagas, Axpo) for construction costs and failure to implement the related contracts and for the loss of income to be commensurate with the entire duration of the concession (25 years);
  2. b) from gas importing companies (including: Edison, Shell, Eon and others) that have already bought gas at discounted prices and which would aim to transfer the higher procurement costs to the Italian State for the next 25 years;
  3. c) from gas shippers who would find themselves losing sales margins in Turkey rather than in Italy.

The variables to quantify the exact amount of damages are many and some essential data are in the exclusive sphere of control of the companies involved in the project.

It is certain, however, that by interrupting the Tap project, the Italian State would be involved in a long and losing dispute, whose costs could be estimated, based on a prudential estimate, in a spectrum of between €20 and €35 billion.”

Conte insists that those who still argue that the Italian state would not bear any costs or low costs are wrong.

“If there must be a “fault”, attribute it to me. When I took up this position, I was aware that the responsibility of guiding the general policy of the government would also have led to the adoption of difficult choices”, Conte writes.

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