France, Italy sign energy deal at summit

France and Italy signed an energy cooperation deal on Friday which should ease some of the bitterness caused by wrangling over French utility Suez last year.

France, Italy sign energy deal at summit
Under the deal, inked at a Franco-Italian summit in the southern French city of Nice, Enel will take a 12.5 percent stake in the first new-generation nuclear power station of French electricity operator EDF, in Flamanville, Normandy.

The station, with a total investment of 3.6 billion euros and a capacity of 1,600 megawatt (MW), is expected to start up in 2012, the Italian utility Enel said in a statement.

Enel said it would have an option to take a similar part in building the next five European pressurised water reactors (EPR) to be developed by EDF, should it decide to go ahead with them.

The deal would allow Enel, which owned all Italian nuclear stations before they were banned in 1986, to gain access to new technology and French nuclear power capacity rising to 1,200 MW in 2012 from 600 MW in 2008.

The Financial Times said the assets would also include holdings of 40-49 percent in gas-fired power stations. EDF would get access to Enel nuclear, coal and gas-generation assets in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Russia, the paper said.

The deal would soothe ill-feeling caused last year when the France's desire to create a national energy champion by merging gas operator GDF with utility Suez thwarted a tentative bid by Enel.

"The merger was decided to block Enel, which wanted to join up with Suez," Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told French daily le Figaro in an interview published in Friday's edition.

"I felt a great deal of bitterness. But we have to look to the future. The Nice accord sends a very positive message."

The deal was the main feature of a wider agreement on energy policy, and Italian power grid Terna and its French counterpart could also reach an agreement on transmission capacity, diplomats have said.

Contrasting remarks from the two leaders on the European Central Bank, could also have an impact at the meeting, which kicked off with a military salute in the picturesque main square of Nice's old town.

In an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated his longstanding line that governments should be free to comment on ECB decisions and had a role to play in foreign exchange policy.

Prodi told Le Figaro that any tensions between governments and the fiercely independent central bank should be avoided.

With the tense situation in France's volatile, multi-ethnic suburbs highlighted by a renewed outbreak of urban violence this week, immigration policy will also feature heavily.

Italy's proximity to the African mainland has made it one of the main entry points into Europe for clandestine immigration and Sarkozy told the Corriere della Sera that he hoped the meeting would foster a joint approach to immigration.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Kasım 2007, 18:14