ROME, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Friday he wants to deepen ties with Mediterranean countries and help balance trade between the 22 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking at the "Verso Sub" (Toward the South) gathering of the Ambrosetti Forum in Sorrento, part of the southern Italian metropolis of Naples, most of Draghi's remarks were aimed at ways to help the development of the less economically developed southern regions of Italy.
But the prime minister also discussed the need to strengthen ties in the Mediterranean region. Draghi said Italy would spend around 1.5 billion euros (1.6 billion U.S. dollars) to modernize shipping ports in southern parts of Italy to promote more trans-Mediterranean trade.
He discussed improving access to food, which has been curbed during the Russia-Ukraine conflict and which threatened "the stability in Africa and the Middle East."
He also focused on energy in the wake of Italy penning new energy supply deals with Algeria and Egypt as the country sought to wean itself off of Russian gas supplies.
"We need to strengthen energy cooperation among Mediterranean countries," Draghi said. "We want to be part of the energy transition in the whole region."
"We must also accelerate the development of renewable energy to improve the sustainability of our production model," he added.
Draghi said that around 90 percent of trade in the Mediterranean was between members of the European Union, while just 9 percent is between European countries and those on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and only one percent between the countries on the southern shore of the sea. He said investments in the region would help those figures to become less lopsided.