Italy falling with Gaddafi

Berlusconi and Gaddafi - Wikimedia Commons

In a moment when the whole West was calling for sanctions against Gaddafi’s regime, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi finally took a position yesterday, saying that “Europe and the West can’t be spectators anymore”.

After calling Libya conditions a “threat for our economy and security”, Berlusconi said yesterday in a statement that “Gaddafi has lost control of the situation” and that Italy could be ready for sanctions against Libya. However, the only spectator in the European scenario over the last week had been Berlusconi himself, who last Tuesday said that the situation was under control as “the people of Libya are granting stability and national security”.

Thousands of victims during the revolts seemed to confirm the point of view of this master of realpolitik, whose sensitiveness prevented him from phoning to Gaddafi as he “didn’t want to disturb him”. Leaving aside the funny aspect that never abandons Berlusconi’s statements, Italian foreign politics had never appeared so manifestly weak and inadequate before. Yesterday’s statement was not a cock stroke after days of embarrassing silence, nor it denied Berlusconi’s unfitness for government.

Indeed, confusion among Berlusconi’s members of Government in relation to revolts in Libya, revealed something more than their incompetence and ineptitude. Berlusconi found it extremely difficult to take a position against Gaddafi because he’s aware of the dramatic consequences of Gaddafi’s fall. And he’s also aware of his own guiltiness. Though Berlusconi’s foreign politics is only the conclusion of a trend that had always characterized Italian governments, it goes without saying that Italy’s international position has dramatically weakened during his governments. Indeed, Berlusconi’s relations with Gaddafi convey the same personal use of politics (Bunga Bunga politics) he has always applied to home affairs.

What Berlusconi established with the so-called Friendship Treaty between Libya and Italy in 2008, was Italy’s lack of independence in terms of illegal immigration. Officially the treaty wanted to stop fluxes of African immigrants from Libya to Sicily by means  of economical support offered by the Italian government to Gaddafi’s regime. The treaty also aimed at regulating economic relationships between Italy and Libya. Energetic company Eni has crucial plants in Libya and Italy imports a great deal of energetic supplies from Libya. What’s more, Gaddafi owns numerous stakes of Italian companies.

Both in terms of immigration and economy, the outcome was the same: the total reliance of Italy on a single person, Gaddafi, whose government was known to be anything but stable (as current events are showing).  Therefore, Italy has now to face the inevitable consequences of Gaddafi’s fall: the rise of the oil price and the threat of damages to Eni’s structures and, above all, the threat of massive fluxes of immigrants from Libya to Sicily.

As pointed out by Italian magazine L’Espresso with an extraordinarily efficient metaphor, Italy is going to pay the bill. After  the fall of Mubarak, Ben Alì and (possibly soon) of Gaddafi, Italy has now to face the consequences of its foreign politics, which over the last decade have forced the country to a strict dependence to a series of dictators by means of economic and immigration treaties.

What should Italy do after Gaddafi’s fall? “We have the duty to get rid of this government, which now completely resembles the Libyan government.  We have to do it as soon as possible”, said MP Antonio Di Pietro last Friday during a statement in Parliament. I couldn’t find a better answer.

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About Ruggero Galtarossa

I'm a BA Journalism and Sociology student at City University London. I was born in Padova, Italy.I cover Italian politics and society from the angle of an Italian part-time exile. You can find me on the Huffington Post UK. View all posts by Ruggero Galtarossa

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