Italian papers are reporting (article in Italian) that Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi concluded two days of talks between Moscow and Rome with a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he insisted that Italy’s Eni get to participate in the proposed “Nord Stream 2” pipeline extension. Renzi made headlines late last year by very publicly holding up the extension of EU sanctions against Russia as he complained of Germany’s hypocrisy in killing off Russia’s South Stream pipeline project while greenlighting Nord Stream 2.
Critics of Nord Stream 2 also point out that it would negatively affect the bottom line of struggling Ukraine, which gets several billion euros in transit fees from the pipelines that cross its territory en route to Europe. Renzi is next due to discuss the issue with Germany’s Angela Merkel, reports say.
Italy and Russia were close back in the Berlusconi days; Putin is very used to taking Rome’s phone calls. That this episode is playing out along these lines shouldn’t exactly surprise anyone. But it’s also probably not the end of the story: look for Poland and the Balts to keep crying bloody murder over the project, and to bring it up as a bargaining chip whenever they feel they need leverage over Brussels.