History and Hydrocarbons Drive Italy’s Relations With North Africa

History and Hydrocarbons Drive Italy’s Relations With North Africa
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at a press conference, Rome, Italy, Nov. 24, 2014 (AP photo by Alessandra Tarantino).

Earlier this month, Italy cooperated with Libyan military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar to ensure the delivery of 700,000 barrels of oil from eastern Libya, despite the fact that the Italian government officially supports the United Nations-backed national unity government in Tripoli that Haftar opposes. In an email interview, Silvia Colombo, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Affairs, discusses Italy’s policies in North Africa and the Middle East.

WPR: Who are Italy’s main partners in North Africa and the Middle East, and to what extent do hydrocarbons drive relations?

Silvia Colombo: Italy’s foreign policy has always had a distinct Mediterranean dimension. Italy’s relations with North Africa and the Middle East have traditionally been centered around Algeria and Libya as a result of important historical, geographical and commercial connections, most of all the Italian colonization of Libya from the 1910s until 1947. The presence of substantial hydrocarbon reserves in Algeria and Libya, and the ability of a company such as Italian energy giant ENI to establish preferential relations with the oil and gas authorities there, has provided a strong base for bilateral cooperation. In 2009, Algeria and Libya accounted for over 45 percent of Italy’s gas imports. Contrary to other European countries, Italy has always been perceived as a reliable commercial partner in the region and one that does not impose strict political conditions on bilateral cooperation.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review