Italy-Libya, the 2011 destabilization and relations never recovered

Italy-Libya, the 2011 destabilization and relations never recovered

Separations and approximations. Agreements and marriages of convenience. The history of relations between Italy and Libya is at times schizophrenic, almost like a troubled love story in which the lovers, despite the difficulties, cannot do without each other. For love, but above all for convenience. And now let’s try to tie up the threads of a somewhat frayed relationship, which other actors have entered over the years and have contributed to destabilizing the already fragile “balance of the couple”. Meloni’s government returns to Libya with the attitude it lacked for over ten years. Since Italy decided in 2011 to support the air intervention against Libya promoted by France and Great Britain in response to the repression that Gaddafi was implementing against the Arab Spring protests. Not that before that date relations between the two countries were idyllic. The ex-rais, as soon as he took power, complied with the well-known demands for compensation from the colonial period. In 2008, in Benghazi, Gaddafi and Silvio Berlusconi signed the “Italy-Libya Friendship Treaty” which committed our country to offsetting the damages of the colonial era through important economic investments, but also through political and security collaboration. Also in 2008, one of Rome’s goals was to end irregular immigration.

Thus was born a new phase that also saw the (often contested) presence of Gaddafi in Italy. But in 2008 perhaps nobody imagined what would happen in a few years. The wind of the Arab Spring has hit Libya and destabilized the country. France and Great Britain, and beyond, fanned the flames of protest to eliminate a dictator with whom Italy, through ups and downs, has always had a privileged relationship. And so, the government of the time, by demonstrating through various political representatives the conviction of not having to intervene militarily in Libya to prevent the alleged bombing of demonstrators (who would later also be thrown into mass graves) ended up giving in for fear of letting the NATO membership. Among the government officials who expressed perplexity in relation to the mission in Libya was the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, who highlighted, among other things, the repercussions linked to immigration. For the decision to participate in the mission, the contribution of senior State officials was notable. It was the beginning of the end.

Libya’s instability, which continues to this day, opened the door to foreign presences that made Italy’s role in Libya increasingly difficult. While the Italian embassy in Tripoli was the first to reopen after 2011, Rome’s political concreteness has always been lacking. The Libyan dossier, over the last ten years, has been treated with insufficient and perhaps even reluctance by a political class incapable of fully understanding the strategic importance of the country. And not only with regard to irregular immigration, but above all energy, a topic that today comes back with arrogance. After 2011, Italy’s weight in the area is almost nil. As proof of this, 5 Italians were kidnapped in 2015 alone, two of whom were killed. In January it was the turn of orthopedic surgeon Ignazio Scaravilli, who was discharged in June of the same year. A month later, four Bonatti workers were kidnapped, two of whom later died in a shootout. A painful page for Italy, which had no adherence to a territory in political chaos, in constant civil war and in which the presence of jihadist militias was strong. Over the years, the various governments that followed did little or nothing for the North African country, in some cases leaving some Italian companies present to provide security independently. But not only.

The immigration emergency, which later became European, was never fully addressed. The illusion of solving the problem by handing over old patrol boats to the Libyan coast guard only made the situation worse. While other states, such as Turkey and Russia, guaranteed presence in the area, weapons and even economic support to the various factions in the field. A way of dividing the country into areas of influence by not allowing the presence of a single, independent interlocutor capable of relating to the international community. The reasons for Italian absenteeism can be found in multiple motivations, ranging from the political inability to make decisions to the absence of men in the territory, to the fear of a colonialist regurgitation that permeates, above all, certain circles of the moralistic and sentimental good left. And so, over the years, countries like Russia and Turkey have entered and settled in Libya. Ankara, in particular, played and still plays a key role with a significant military presence. Now, therefore, it is necessary to tie the threads of this troubled relationship from the demonstration of reliability, a fundamental characteristic in every relationship, and the positioning of competent men in the field.

Source: IL Tempo