Why did the Conference on Libya organized by Prime Minister Conte’s government at Villa Igiea in Palermo fail?
Firstly, it was a chaotic and hastily organized Conference, with evident signs of oversimplification, which became evident both in the logistics and in the policy line.
At the time of Presidents Moro, Cossiga and Craxi, the Conference would have certainly been a real success. Why? Because, at that time, Italy still counted much in the Mediterranean region and was taken very seriously by everyone. Italy knew what its interests were, not the usual “seductive attractions” of peace, development, etc. – just to put it in Benedetto Croce’s words.
It would not have been possible for France and Great Britain to pressurize and blackmail Italy to bomb a country, namely Gaddafi’s Libya, which was our always open merchant bank. It was also our strategic partner in the Maghreb region and our military guarantee against the so-called Françafrique and the defender of the equilibria with Egypt and Algeria, as well as the protection of ENI wells from many dangers.
The current Italian government has reduced the Libyan issue to a problem of mere reunification between the two parts, namely Cyrenaica’s area and Tripoli’s area, which is much loved by the United Nations, but no one knows why.
What is missing is the whole Fezzan region, an area of autonomous tribes in which interests intersect with illicit trafficking and with migrant flows. The Fezzan region was controlled by Gaddafi with a very effective system of stick (much) and carrot (sometimes).
It is fully inconceivable to think that all this can disappear thanks to the mere good will and good heart of al-Sarraj in Tripoli or of General Haftar in Benghazi.
Furthermore, a great and so sensitive foreign policy operation is never arranged for the migrant issue alone.
Migrants are above all the result of Great Britain’s and France’s extreme idiocy on Libya and of their desire to oust a “tyrant” (it is their eighteenth-century political rhetoric) that was instead a wonderful asset for the hated Italy.
Certainly, General Haftar could not even accept that Italy was the sole sponsor and funder of the Tripoli Coast Guard, which coordinated the “Operation Nauras” to stop the migrants’ ships and the NGOs that protected them.
One cannot fund either contenders and think that the other is happy with it.
Migrants, however, are a social, political and economic emergency that cannot be the only matter for a peace Conference on Libya.
In fact, for too long in Italy foreign policy has been confused with domestic policy, however without ever getting a grip on either of them.
We should not even forget the fully offensive action on European defence organized on November 12, by President Macron with Presidents Trump and Putin and Chancellor Merkel.
The “European defence” is a huge nonsense invented by the childish President, Emmanuel Macron, who even wanted to merge the French and German armies at the beginning of his term of office.
Some of Cambronne’s words of the other French high military ranks have so far stopped this process, thus preventing the French Armed Forces from merging with the current chronic disaster of the Bundeswehr.
Nevertheless, at the Palermo Conference, Russia was represented by an influential deputy-Minister, Bogdanov.
What did Russia want from the Conference held in Sicily? Obviously a recognition of his new role in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Russia no longer thinks about the Mediterranean as in the Cold War phase – i.e. to divide it into two areas – but imagines it as a united region and probably under its sole hegemony.
Russia has excellent relations with most African countries, strengthened by economic treaties, whereas this is certainly not the case with the European Union, while the rebellion against the CFA franc on the part of the 14 countries that are forced to adopt it is mounting ever more.
The fact of not having invited China to the Palermo Conference makes us smile.
This oversight is strange. China is the largest trading partner of African countries, with the exception of Swaziland.
A donor country, an investor and a lender.
With a mass of investment throughout Africa, which this year has reached 600 million dollars, in addition to a traditional presence in the infrastructure of Nigeria and Angola which is currently unparalleled.
They are the countries that, together with others, generate the flow of migrants reaching the Libyan coasts. Therefore, the fact of not having invited China is self-destructive.
It would also be interesting to know who is behind the many recruiters of men who can be seen in African squares. Certainly, many Western “operators” and some gangmasters of local leaders, who want to get rid of former convicts and “dangerous masses”.
Hence why China was not invited? For parochialism. Because we cannot imagine how such a huge country can be interested in peace in Africa, and probably we do not know what it wants. Simply China wants the absolute stability of the whole African continent.
But can we ensure it to Africa? No, we cannot. France still has its Operation Barkhane in place between Chad and Mauritania, which serves above all to let migrants move to Libya. Furthermore the North American troops of AFRICOM are everywhere on the Dark Continent with a view to opposing China.
Let us consider also the case of Djibouti, where a new Chinese base was built very close to the US one.
After the phase of economic investment, there will certainly also be the phase of Chinese military positions and I am not so sure that a Chinese base will not come out on the shores of the Maghreb region. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that China is a friend of Israel.
In short, it was real madness to do without the clout and influence of the People’s Republic of China in the Palermo Conference.
Why? Is it because we do not want to annoy America? Needless. Is it because it is too big and hence could say quia sum Leo? The Chinese diplomacy is so subtle that it does not permit such deductions.
As already mentioned, I think that ignorance is at the basis of China’s exclusion from the Conference. In fact, our diplomats come from years of “reforms” that have turned them into mere sales representatives.
They are all obsessed with an economy they do not know – hence they are probably not familiar with the evolution of Chinese business in Africa.
As for France and Great Britain, they came to use the Conference for their own purposes.
The French Foreign Minister, Jean Yves Le Drian, is a widely experienced old Mitterandian Breton.
The organization of the Conference based on bilateral meetings – as established by the regulation – favoured confidential agreements and “covert” meetings. For someone like Le Drian, who is a member of the Grand Orient of France, a covert approach is easy to take. France’s primary interest is to limit ENI’s presence as much as possible and exclude Italy from the African games.
Furthermore, Great Britain has the same style as the United States: they bring democracy somewhere and then, immediately after, they forget about it.
Therefore, bilateral relations were favoured, instead of a general and overall picture, which would have been in Italy’s interest.
It would have been very useful to have a Summit involving all parties, so as to break any stalemate and overcome rejections.
However, the Italian government’s approach was not a foreign policy approach, but a domestic policy one, i.e. to stop the migrant flows.
Hence no other idea for Libya, if not “dialogue” or the usual “peace”.
Platitudes for newspapers. In fact, how is it possible to put together al-Sarraj and General Haftar, who want dominance over coastal and productive Libya implying the usual principle of King Francis I and Emperor Charles V, epitomized by the statement “my brother and I want the same thing”. It was the Duchy of Milan.
Why should al-Sarraj commit suicide – probably only at political level – for General Haftar? Obviously, General Haftar pays heed only to the Russian and French intelligence services, which support him in his actions.
Furthermore, why should we try to achieve the goal of a “United Libya”, when currently no faction has difficulty in just seeing the other?
Let us face reality and state it clearly: the only way to unify Libya is to give a real Rais back to it.
Only those who credibly threaten to have maximum strength and power can stop the smaller forces of insurgency.
Perhaps it would be better if we read Machiavelli’s books more often, instead of those of the heart-rending political scientists.
In short, the Palermo Conference was a good idea – in principle – but organized by a country that was previously a second-class power and, currently, not even that.
Decades of destruction of Italy’s foreign policy, in the period from the end of the so-called “First Republic” to present times, have left their mark. Politicians are now reduced to vociferous tenants or to shortsighted semiliterates who are unable to contemplate anything beyond their own national navel.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France