Malta pipeline: MEPs vote down objection to PCI gas projects

MEPs have voted down an objection filed by Green MEPs to a list of EU-funded gas projects that includes Malta’s pipeline connection to Sicily

A photomontage of the terminal at Delimara where the gas pipeline will land
A photomontage of the terminal at Delimara where the gas pipeline will land

MEPs have voted down an objection filed by Green MEPs to a list of EU-funded gas projects that includes Malta’s pipeline connection to Sicily.

A total of 497 MEPs did not support the objection to release EU funds for the so-called projects of common interest (PCI) for gas projects.

The objection filed by Marie Toussaint for the Greens was to the approval of Connecting European Facility funds for PCIs on a number of environmental as well as rule of law issues.

The Greens' objection made reference to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and her investigation into corrupt dealings between the Maltese government, Yorgen Fenech, the owner of the Dubai-based company 17 Black, and Electcrogas.

The MEPs that voted in favour of the objection were mainly the Greens, the Left, and a few members of the S&D.

Voting against the objection were all the Maltese MEPs – Alfred Sant, Cyrus Engerer, Alex Agius Saliba, David Casa and Josianne Cutajar – along with the majority of EPP, S&D and Renew members.

The gas pipeline between Malta and Sicily will now form part of a list of energy projects eligible for EU funding.

Christian Ehler, the EPP’s spokesman on the fifth list of the so-called Projects of Common Interest (PCIs), has previously said the group would seek guarantees from the Maltese government and the European Commission that “no EU money will go directly or indirectly to criminals.”

Green NGOs tell MEPs that Malta pipeline funding should be refused

The reference is to the Melite pipeline’s connection to the power plant owned and operated by Electrogas, the company whose shareholders include Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, accused of having masterminded the Caruana Galizia assassination.

“The EPP Group has strong reservations about the Maltese gas pipeline project on the list. One of the shareholders of the project stands accused of conspiring to murder investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. We will support the list as a whole because the Parliament cannot object to an individual project. However, we demand that the EU Commission provides iron-clad guarantees that no funds will go to criminals,” Ehler previously told the ITRE committee of MEPs.

Pipeline plans: Malta studying ‘availability’ of hydrogen from Sicily

“We see gas as a bridging technology. To reduce Europe’s CO2 emissions, Europe also needs gas. Not for ever and everywhere, but for a transitional period and in certain situations. Gas is the cleanest fossil energy source and gas infrastructure can be used in the future to transport clean hydrogen. By using gas, Europe can achieve CO2 reductions faster by moving away from, for example, coal without having to wait for fully carbon-free technologies to be widely available,” Ehler said.

MEPs from the EPP’s Italian delegation had already submitted a request to the European Commission asking for clarification that EU funds will not be awarded to people linked to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder.

The Caruana Galizia family has argued that EU funds for a Malta-Sicily gas pipeline could benefit Yorgen Fenech as a shareholder in the Electrogas consortium.The Maltese gas pipeline was originally excluded from the Connecting Europe Facility funding in both 2020 and 2021.

But it was reinserted in a new list where it was rebranded as a ‘hydrogen ready’ pipeline, thanks to a derogation from the original rules as agreed by EU energy ministers. Instead the gas pipeline will be built so as to also transport hydrogen, with the European Commission agreeing to allow “blending projects” during a transitional period that ends in 2029.

The Council declared that entities connected to fraud, corruption or conduct related to criminal organisations will be excluded from such funding, a possible reference to the presence of Electrogas as owner of Malta’s gas plant.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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