MILAN (AP) — Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says the jobs of oil workers have been preserved by the failure of a referendum that aimed to curtail the duration of existing drilling concessions in territorial waters.
The referendum Sunday was headed to defeat after failing to reach a quorum of 50 percent plus one. Renzi had made clear before the vote of his intention to abstain, weakening the measure.
After polls closed, Renzi said that "the government doesn't see itself as the winner." The winners, he said, were the workers "who tomorrow return to their place of work ... aware of having a future and not just a past."
The battle began when Renzi's government in December extended all existing 30-year concessions within 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) of the shore until their resources were exhausted, while at the same time banning all future exploration and drilling in territorial waters.
Voters were asked if they wanted to revoke the extension. Nine regional governments opposed the extension, expressing concern about safety and the environment and advocating a more articulated renewable energy policy.
Experts say the referendum was unlikely to have any longer term impact on energy investments in Italy, as the oil companies were counting only on the initial 30-year term.
Nor will it impact Italy's dependency on energy imports. Italy imports 90 percent of its gas and oil, and the amount of resources subject to the referendum was equal only to 3 percent of its annual domestic demand for gas and 1 percent of its annual demand for oil in 2015.
This story has been corrected to fix the distance to shore to 12 miles, not 12 kilometers.