The European Commission is unaware of any disruption of trade between Malta and Italy having “actually occurred” in the wake of a veiled threat last June by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio that the electricity interconnector could be switched off since Malta was not cooperating with Italy over migrant rescues.
Labour MEP Miriam Dalli had called on the European Commission to ensure that the interconnector from Sicily to Malta is not disrupted.
At the time, Malta and the new Italian populist government were at loggerheads over the Aquarius migration incident, with both countries refusing to open their ports to the vessel, which was carrying over 650 refugees.
Speaking on Italian television, Di Maio had created tensions between the two countries, saying that Malta is getting electricity from Italy but refusing to help with migrants.
“We give Malta electricity, there is a cable that starts in Ragusa that gives Malta electricity, and Malta refused to help out the Aquarius, which was in its SAR [Search and Rescue] zone,” Luigi di Maio said when interviewed on the programme Porta a Porta by Bruno Vespa.
Reacting at the time, the Maltese government said it was surprised by Di Maio’s statement, adding that Malta buys energy from the European grid via the Malta-Italy interconnector, at commercial rates.
In her questions to the European Commission, Dalli said the Malta-Italy interconnector was put in place to end the isolation of the Maltese Islands from the European energy network – through a substation in Ragusa – and to provide security of supply and flexibility in the island’s electricity services.
She referred to Di Maio’s comments as a “veiled threat”, adding that the Aquarius rescues had happened in the search and rescue area of Libya, not Malta.
Dalli asked the EC if it considered such “threats” by a member state acceptable, and how the EC can ensure that projects of common interest are not used to threaten energy isolated member states.
“In view of the statement made, can the Commission ascertain that the interconnector between Malta and Italy is not disrupted,” she asked.
In the Commission’s reply this week, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: “The objective to create an integrated and well-connected internal energy market is firmly anchored in Union legislation and the Commission is strongly committed to removing persisting barriers to energy trade across the borders between the Member States of the European Union.
“The Commission and the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) closely monitor the operation of the Internal Energy Market.
“The Commission is not aware that any disruption of trade between Malta and Italy has actually occurred.”
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