Italy at the G20:
Adopting a Multilateral Approach and a Pragmatic Vision on Energy with a Special Focus on the Arab Gulf
By Piercamillo Falasca
ITALY'S participation in the last G20 summit (9-10 September, in New Delhi) was oriented towards a proactive and multilateral approach. More prominent than other European countries, Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, legitimised the G20 as a crucial multilateral forum for the more industrialised countries, emerging economic giants, and an assortment of countries from the so-called Global South. As the host country of the 2024 G7 meeting, Italy explicitly worked to avoid the emergence of opposition and tensions between the West and emerging nations.
In the final statements of the Summit, there are many issues prioritised by Italy including:
migration — the need to combat illegal immigration and human traffickers, cooperation between countries of origin, transit, and destination to consolidate and promote legal migration pathways
the principle of neutrality in economic and energy choices aimed at addressing the climate crisis
the promotion of a greater role for multilateral development banks in favour of low-income countries, especially in Africa.
The Summit offered the opportunity for Italy to profile itself as a leading sponsor of the African Union’s accession to the G20 as a permanent member. Italy hopes that this can contribute to increasingly shifting the centre of European politics and foreign policy towards the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Indeed, investment policies in Africa will be of primary importance on the agenda that the future Italian presidency of the G7 will bring to the attention of the next Summit.
Artificial intelligence was also prioritised by Italy and Meloni intends to promote — starting from the next G7 — a dialogue between the public and private sectors to construct a viable, global, regulatory framework. Italy leans heavily on the Vatican initiative (October 2020) titled the ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics,’ in collaboration with Microsoft, IBM, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA), and the Italian Ministry of Innovation. In January 2023, this led to the commitment made by some of the main leaders of the three Abrahamic religions (including Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia [President of the Pontifical Academy for Life] Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah [President of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace and Chair of the Emirates Council for Shariah Fatwa], and Chief Rabbi, Eliezer Simha Weisz [Member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel]) for the development of artificial intelligence that values the centrality of the human being, and to date, the most advanced and plural reflection globally on artificial intelligence.
It is also noteworthy that Italy invested in a strategic initiative termed the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) together with the United States, India, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and Bangladesh. Italy was the only European country participating in the initiative which recognises the importance of diversifying, adopting, and promoting sustainable biofuels and hydrogen produced by zero and low-emission technologies. The goal is to increase ethanol blending in petrol to 20% or develop alternative blending solutions that enhance energy stability and contribute to climate security. Meloni emphasised that the issue of biofuels ‘is a battle that we are also fighting within the European Union, one of those challenges that tend to bring together the green transition and our national interests.’ Italy’s participation in the GBA may be viewed as a country that, although not as extensive as other members of the initiative, has strong technological know-how in agriculture and the automotive sector—both of which are energy intensive. These interests intersect with other participating countries including with key oil producing states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which view the GBA as an opportunity to develop their agricultural production.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the G20 is the proposed trade corridor titled the ‘Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment and India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor’ which connects Europe, the Middle East, and India. This initiative seeks to provide an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Italy has joined the initiative and will contribute to reconfiguring the international trade routes thus reducing transit times significantly. The next step will be for the participating countries to create working groups to identify areas where investments are needed and establish a realistic programme of implementation. The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) entails a collective commitment to mobilise resources of $600 billion (USD) to support low and middle-income countries in constructing sustainable infrastructure in line with principles of investment transparency. Both Saudi Arabia (the world’s foremost oil exporter) and the United Arab Emirates (the financial hub of the Middle East) have been striving to safeguard against disruptions to trade along key energy routes.
Relations with the GCC countries are a common thread in the initiatives that Italy has dedicated its efforts to during the G20 summit. Meloni, in her final press conference, stressed that ‘As you know, Italy has a strong focus on the Gulf region. We have demonstrated this with the Rome process, with the Migration Conference, where we invited many of these nations.’ On the sidelines of the Summit, Meloni announced that before returning to Italy, she would make a stop in Qatar for a meeting with Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani—adding yet another dynamic to Italy’s existing ties to the region.
Italy’s participation in the G20 Summit focused on multilateralism, migration, climate change, AI ethics, biofuels, and economic infrastructure projects, especially in collaboration with GCC partners. This reflects Rome’s strategic priorities and very well may indicate the direction that Europe is looking.