3 hurt in fresh TAP clashes

2 guards, woman protester slightly injured

(ANSA) - Melendugno, February 9 - Three people were hurt in fresh clashes Friday between police and protesters at the Puglia hub of the TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP). Two security guards and a woman protester were slightly injured, local sources said. Around 50 demonstrators threw stones at police, who baton-charged them to push them back, the sources said. The clashes took place at the TAP construction site at San Foca at Marina di Melendugno. The clashes broke out at about five thirty in the morning and have been continuing sporadically since then, the sources said.
    The European Investment Bank on Tuesday gave the TAP project a 1.5 billion euro loan, one of its biggest ever.
    The TAP will bring Azerbaijan natural gas through Greece, Albania and the Adriatic to reach Italy and tap into its natural-gas network.
    The EIB said that after "detailed discussions" by its board, it had approved the mega-loan.
    The TAP is part of the natural gas market's Southern Corridor and is thus among the EU's strategic energy projects.
    There are continuing protests in Puglia over olive-tree removal for the construction of the Italian hub, even though the trees will be replaced in their original sites once construction is complete.
    In December Puglia Governor Michele Emiliano apologised for having used an Auschwitz analogy in a row over the contested TAP project.
    Emiliano apologized for comparing a worksite in his region for the TAP gas pipeline to Auschwitz amid a war of words with Industry Minister Carlo Calenda.
    "Objectively, the comparison between the TAP work site and Auschwitz was wrong and I apologise for having inopportunely used it live on radio this morning," Emiliano told Radio Capital.
    The row with Calenda broke out after the minister said that an explosion in Austria that led to the temporary interruption of gas flows from Russia proved the need for the TAP project, which has been held up by violent protests and legal challenges.
    Calenda chastised Emiliano about the Auschwitz comment and about aspersions he cast about his motives.
    "It is infantile and vulgar to say that I support the TAP to favour lobbies and find a job (in the future), but basically harmless," the minister said via Twitter.
    "To say that the work site is the same as Auschwitz is serious and disrespectful.
    "Try to return within the limits of civil debate".
    Before he became Italian premier, then Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in 2016 that "The creation of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline is strategic for the diversification of provision sources" not just for "the EU and the Balkans" but also "for Italy".
    Speaking at the foreign ministry in Rome during the fourth session of the inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation between Italy and Azerbaijan, Gentiloni said "after the inauguration of the project in Thessaloniki, about one month ago, a challenge has opened: seeing Azeri gas reach Italy by 2020" .
    "Now we can look at new horizons", he said. The objective, recalled Gentiloni, is to boost economic and political relations between Rome and Baku, considered a "strategic regional partner".
    The TAP consortium is made up of the following companies: BP (20%), SOCAR (20%), Snam (20%), Fluxys (19%), Enags (16%) and Axpo (5%).
    It is set to invest 5.6 billion euros in the gas pipeline in the next few years.
    Protests against the Puglia stretch of the TAP have centred on Nimby issues as well as the temporary removal of olive trees.
    photo: Friday's clashes