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Melita gas pipeline may be left unfunded

An EU spokesperson stated that the inclusion of a gas pipeline between Malta and the rest of the EU in the list of possible projects to be funded had not yet been determined, despite government statements that plans for the pipeline were underway – Euractiv.

The 159-kilometre-long Melita TransGas Pipeline is planned to run from Delimara in Malta to Gela in Italy. It will transport natural gas, renewable gases and hydrogen from Italy to Malta.

The €400 million project has been included in the EU’s 5th list of projects of common interest (PCI) in 2022, although the EU’s Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) rules favour renewable energy and electrical interconnections.

The project’s inclusion has sparked controversy as the pipeline will be connected to the Delimara power plant, partly owned by Yorgen Fenech, accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017. Daphne has been investigated for corruption allegations related to the power station and individuals involved in Malta’s gas sector. Fenech denies the allegations, insisting on his innocence.

The addition to the 5th PCI list came despite calls from several MEPs and non-governmental organisations for the European Commission to reconsider its decision. In February, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli stated that the government was working on a “gas pipeline between Malta and the rest of the EU.”

However, when asked by The Shift about the project’s inclusion in the 6th list to be presented at the end of November, an EU spokesperson refused to confirm or deny.

“Member States have agreed that Malta needs to end its energy isolation through integration into the trans-European gas network. On that basis, it was decided to include the Malta-Italy Gas pipeline in the 5th PCI list. The sixth list is still in the making and is due to be adopted later this autumn.”

Yet, even with inclusion in the 6th list, the project will not definitely receive funding. The EU official informed:

According to EU law, funds must not be awarded to project promoters, operators, or investors convicted for fraud, corruption or conduct related to a criminal organisation.

Funding for the project is jeopardised since Electrogas and the man accused of being involved in the journalist’s murder still hold a stake in it. In 2021, the energy minister claimed the corruption clause would not affect the bid because the pipeline was controlled by a state-owned company and not Electrogas Malta.

Dalli blamed the opposition for the objections and ignored protests from the Caruana Galizia family. She also refused to release Malta’s funding proposal for confidentiality reasons.

Friends of the Earth Malta criticised investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure as the projects contradict EU and international carbon emissions targets.

There is a risk that the Melita gas pipeline will result in Maltese taxpayer money and EU funding ending up in the pockets of Electrogas shareholders.

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