Konrad Mizzi’s first appearance as minister without portfolio saw him give a speech on the government’s energy vision this afternoon.
Dr Mizzi had long been scheduled to speak at the Mediterranean Leadership Summit at the Hilton in a session on energy networks and security of supply in Europe.
However, his address was the first since the Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday that saw his energy and health portfolio taken away but being retained as minister without portfolio witching the Office of the Prime Minister.
Dr Mizzi briefly touched on the gas power station project, saying Malta would be shifting energy generation from oil to gas “this summer”.
He then dwelt on government’s vision to act as a liquefied natural gas hub for the shipping industry while pursuing a natural gas pipeline link with Italy.
He also noted that Malta’s EU presidency term next year, will also focus on the European Commission’s energy strategy to diversify gas sources and ensure security of supply across the continent.
He said the EU’s vision dove-tailed with Malta’s own idea of becoming an energy hub in the Mediterranean.
The session was also addressed by Azerbaijan’s energy minister Natig Aliyev, who gave a detailed exposition of the gas pipelines crisis-crossing the European continent and the Caucuses.
Mr Aliyev, a former president of Azerbaijan’s State energy company Socar, said the southern gas corridor would see a gas pipeline reaching Italy from Azerbaijan, passing through Greece and the Adriatic countries.
Paolo Scaroni, deputy chairman, Rothschild Group said the price of gas had fallen as a result of lower consumption and oversupply.
However, the “cynical abundance” should not prevent the EU from focusing on diversifying its suppliers to move away from dependence on Russia.
Russia supplies a third of Europe’s gas requirements but some countries are totally dependent on it.
“Energy independence is as important as political independence but the problem is that the EU’s energy policy is split between five commissioners and the head of
Commission has no power to knock heads together and get a coherent policy,” Mr Scaroni said.
He said the EU had to adopt a medium term plan to wean itself off Russian gas by ensuring an adequate pipeline infrastructure and looking at countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
Cyprus and Egypt could also be suppliers but the largest potential was Iran now that it re-entered the international community. “However, Iran must not become Europe’s new Russia either,” he cautioned.
Source: Times of Malta