Former British prime minister Tony Blair is to meet with far-right Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini in a bid to solve routing issues with the €4.5bn (£4bn) Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project.
Italian politicians are split over the merits of the giant pipeline, which is intended to bring gas from Azerbaijan to southern Europe.
Opposition to the scheme has increased following the recent Italian elections, which saw the election of a populist coalition made up of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Salvini’s League. Both parties are fiercely anti-EU - one of the main backers of the pipeline.
Italian protests have focuses on the 60km interconnector route through Puglia from TAP’s terminal at Melendugno to Brindisi where it will link with the national supply. The path takes it close to two protected UNESCO heritage sites and protesters say it also poses an environmental threat.
Blair has been a consultant on the BP-led TAP since 2014 and is expected to lobby Salvini over the benefits cheaper gas would bring to Italy. EU sources have suggested Russia could be stoking up Italian opposition in an attempt to discredit the pipeline, which will be a rival to its larger alternative pipeline Nord Stream 2 which would take its gas to Germany.
Construction on the 878km pipeline began in 2016. Shareholders include BP (20%), Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR (20%), and infrastructure firms Snam (20%), Fluxys (19%), Enagas (16%) and Axpo (5%).
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