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Italian opposition figures from Gianfranco Fini's Futuro e libertà party, FLI, join the Montenegrin opposition in expressing doubts about recent energy deals signed between the two countries.
Lorenzo Valloreja, a member of the FLI party in Pescara, told Balkan Insight that the opposition group was relieved to hear that the recent agreements were being scrutinised in Montenegro.
"We are satisfied that there is attention to this topic in Montenegro as well. From the beginning we kept saying that these [energy] deals are rather strange."
Valloreja's comments come after opposition leaders from Montenegro's Movement for Change party, PzP, filed criminal charges on February 15 with the State Prosecution of Montenegro against the former prime minister Milo Djukanovic and Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
The lawsuit claims that the two men, along with seven other officials, “committed several criminal acts, generating profits for two Italian energy companies A2A and Terna”, while damaging the Montenegrin State Energy Company, the state of Montenegro and its citizens.
Neither Djukanovic, Berlusconi nor A2A have commented on the law suit, though Branko Vujovic, then minister of economy in Montenegro, stated that “All the procedures [in the sales of the companies] were public and transparent”.
The agreements under scrutiny focus specifically on plans for a submarine power cable between Montenegro and Italy, a Terna project that will cost some €760 million, about €100 million of which will come from Montenegro's state coffers. The cable will transport energy from Montenegro, and from other countries in the region, to Italy.
“In our eyes, this project [the submarine energy cable] is useless both for us [Italians] and for you [Montenegrins]", Valloreja said, adding that “the energy deals will only bring profit for the company owners, since there are "personal, not national interests", at stake.
Valloreja, who also leads the movement "Nessuno tocchi il nostro futuro", formed for fighting against the cable, earlier told daily Vijesti that Fini's headquarters had proposed organising an official visit to Montenegro's opposition to discuss Italian-Montenegrin energy deals, after they heard about the PZP's plans to press charges against Berlucsoni.
The Pescara politician told Balkan Insight he hoped the Montenegrin side would be able to find out something more about this "strange deal that is hiding other goals", and that therefore it would help them "stop this useless project".
La Republica, a prominent Italian newspaper, wrote last November that the public procurement office in Pescara had opened an investigation into corruption regarding the submarine energy cable. Terna, the company contracted to lay the cable, wrote to Republica to complain about the report but significantly did not explicitly mention (or deny) the existence of this investigation.
In addition, a European Parliament resolution on the European integration process of Montenegro, approved on February 10 by the Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed concern about the deal, “urging the Montenegrin authorities to publicly post all annexes and documents related to the recent agreement”. It calls for the full consequences of the deal, including the environmental impact, to be made public.
Italy’s official motives for the deals with Montenegro may be related to meeting EU ‘green energy’ targets - but suspicions linger that other interests are at work.