Thursday

30th Jun 2022

EU officials met Italy energy CEO despite corruption trial

  • Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian energy giant Eni, faces up to eight years in jail, if convicted (Photo: Eni)

The CEO of Italian energy giant Eni, Claudio Descalzi, was granted access to EU commissioners and officials to push the case for gas in the bloc's energy transition - whilst allegedly involved in a billion-dollar corruption scandal, according to a report by Global Witness on Monday (15 March).

Descalzi is on trial in Italy, alongside his company Eni plus Royal Dutch Shell, for their roles in the $1.1bn (€921m) purchase of a Nigerian offshore oil field (called OPL 245) in 2011.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Italian prosecutors have accused Descalzi and other senior executives of acknowledging that a part of the oil companies' payment was set to be used to pay bribes to Nigerian public officials, including ministers and other politicians.

Descalzi is charged with international corruption offences, but he is also a suspect in attempts to interfere in the judicial investigation. Eni's CEO could face up to eight years of prison time, if convicted.

The verdict in the trial, which started in 2018, is expected early in 2021.

Since 2014, when the European Commission started publishing high-level lobby meetings, Eni lobbyists have had 49 meetings with EU commissioners and their cabinet members - the second-most of any Italian company, after fellow energy giant Enel.

The Global Witness report indicates that Descalzi met, via video conference, with EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson in June 2020 to discuss Eni's strategy, and decarbonisation of the gas system and clean energy investments.

Earlier, in November 2019, Eni's CEO also attempted to meet European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is in charge of the Green Deal.

Meanwhile, Descalzi and former commissioner for the internal market, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, had a meeting in September 2018 - the same month public hearings in the corruption trial started.

In a presentation for EU climate officials, released to Global Witness via freedom of information requests, Eni favoured gas as a "clean and safe partner" for renewables, and called for support for the "coal-to-gas switch".

The Italian oil and gas multinational is part of pro-gas industry groups that have collectively declared spending €100m in lobbying since 2014.

Pro-gas lobbies held 129 meetings with senior EU commission officials since 2018.

Additionally, Eni's in-house lobbyists hold six European Parliament passes - more than any other oil and gas company in Brussels.

According to Barnaby Pace from Global Witness, "fossil fuel companies must be prevented from polluting the political process".

"We don't ask tobacco companies for advice on quitting smoking, so we shouldn't be asking those who got rich from oil and gas for climate advice," said Pace.

Both Descalzi and Eni have pleaded not guilty, and deny all charges.

"Eni believes that during the trial in Milan no factual elements emerged supporting the international bribery allegations, which the public prosecutor based only on assumptions and suggestions," a company spokesperson told EUobserver on Friday.

Meanwhile, energy consultancy firm Rystad calculates Eni will be one of the biggest investors in fossil gas in the next decade, with some €30bn in gas investments between 2021 and 2030.

Exclusive

Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief

Italian multinational oil and gas company ENI has a board member advising the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. The European Commission appears to have been kept in the dark over the affair until NGOs starting asking questions.

EU opts to protect gas in energy treaty reform

The EU's proposal for reform of the controversial energy charter treaty pushes for a 10-year phase-out for protection of fossil-fuel investments. But gas gets a more lenient treatment.

Opinion

The Green 'gaslighting' of Africa

The West's fake moral high ground on climate change is devastating Africa - Europe must stop gaslighting the poor and create an inclusive Green New Deal.

New EU rules for energy-project funding to keep fossil gas

The European Commission will unveil a reform of EU criteria for picking energy infrastructure projects for financial support - with a particular focus on hydrogen. However, green groups have warned of the risks of not excluding fossil fuels.

Pandemic exposed corruption in some EU health systems

The report's findings are particularly worrying as member states are preparing to roll-out billions of euros for a post-pandemic recovery. The European Commission is approving national plans for the spending of around €800bn by member states from now until 2026.

News in Brief

  1. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit
  2. Russia urges Nato not to build bases in Sweden, Finland
  3. New president for European Committee of the Regions
  4. Gas flows from Spain to Morocco, after Western Sahara row
  5. BioNTech, Pfizer test 'universal' coronavirus vaccine
  6. UK sanctions second-richest Russian businessman
  7. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms
  8. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  3. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  5. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers

Latest News

  1. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  2. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike
  3. EU's post-Covid billions flowing into black hole
  4. Nato expands and reinforces on Russian flank
  5. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  6. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  7. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  8. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us