All roads lead to the Mediterranean

 

Augusto Manzanal Ciancaglini

Political expert

 

The last events in its natural habitat urge Italy to do the opposite to the premeditated reserve of its new government.

 

In 2011, coinciding with the start of the “Arab Spring”, the arrivals of immigrants to the Italian coasts increase exponentially; the fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia and the civil war in Libya will be the propulsion of a phenomenon that will be reaffirmed after Muamar el Gadafi’s death. Libya turns into the main country of transit towards Italy, thanks to instability that has also generated the ideal breeding ground of human traffickers.

 

Even being the most dangerous route, Libya was absorbing many migrants that tried to access Europe through Ceuta and Melilla, since, with the increase of control by the Moroccan security forces and the on-the-spot deportations that Spain activated, that point is becoming impracticable.

 

Italy tried to carry the problem on its shoulders with the Operation Mare Nostrum, which saved thousands of people, but, facing the suspicion that it produced a “call effect”, it was replaced by the Operation Titron led by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

 

It is true that from 181,376 arrivals to the belpaese registered in 2016 it went to 119,046 in 2017. However, Italy continues to be the member of the EU with the most arrivals.

 

At the same time, almost defeated in Iraq and Syria, Daesh, trying to reorganize, looks to both sides and focuses its attention on Afghanistan, but also on Western and Northern Africa, especially the Sahel and Libya.

 

On the other hand, Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb still has big presence, although it is suffering a high number of detentions; most of the break-ups are taking place in Tunisia and Algeria.

 

All this means that the chaotic south of Libya and Mali continues to be the main center of jihadist activity. Nevertheless, there are big movements along the north of the Maghreb, which means, at the door of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Another aspect to be considered is the economic one, fundamentally everything relating to energy, and more specifically with gas. In this sense, one has to take into account that Russia continues to be Italy’s main natural gas supplier in the same moment in which Moscow has decided to go back to the Mediterranean. That would be the reason why Trump gave his “blessing” for Rome to be the main figure in Libya.

 

In relation to gas, as well as Russia, Italy depends on Norway, the Netherlands, Algeria and Libya. In the south, while the projects Poseidon and TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) are being developed, Italy feeds on the gas pipeline TTPC (Trans Tunisian Pipeline Company), which transports gas from Algeria, and on the gas pipeline Greenstream, which is part of the Mellitah Oil & Gas in Libya towards Sicilia. The latter is the most important supply channel for Italy after those coming from Russia.

 

The Mellitah Oil & Gas, in which the NOC (National Oil Company), the oil company of Libya and ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), the biggest Italian company, participate, leaves many doubts regarding security. However, ENI, which managed less than a fifth of Libya’s entire gas and oil production before the war, is paradoxically managing almost a third at moment.

 

Furthermore, ENI, which in 2016 makes Italy turn into Africa’s third investor, inaugurates in December 2017 in record time the natural gas field of Zohr, Egyptian and the biggest in the Mediterranean, with a share of 60% and leaving 30% to the Russian Rosneft. Almost simultaneously, the consortium Total-ENI-Novatek is granted the license for the drilling of oil and natural gas along the Lebanese coast; Russia comes into sight through Novatek. Apparently, ENI, Gazprom’s biggest client, transforms the Russian bear hug into diverse handshakes.

 

For Italy, it is clear that in the last decade, the number of migrations from Africa has increased and the terrorist risk has come closer. On the other hand, this urgent commitment to security, added to the new economic opportunities opening, inevitably give leadership to Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

From this platform, it will be able to have the strength to pragmatically develop an independent relationship with Moscow and a more interdependent one with Brussels.

 

12/06/2018. © All rights reserved

 

 

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