Analysis of Dabaiba’s visit to Rome

Emanuele Rossi

The Libyan prime minister in Rome will have to consolidate the Italian side and use it as an anchor for the political, economic and security challenges that his country will have to face in the near future. The comment of Saini Fasanotti, Mezran and Varvelli.

For his first trip to the Western world, the Libyan Prime Minister, Abdelhamid Dabaiba , has chosen two milestones: first Rome, then Paris.

Italy and France are in the reset phase in relations / competitions on North Africa and the Sahel (read also the enlarged Mediterranean), aware that a common line can be more effective. Tripoli, where Dabaiba leads the Government of National Unity under UN aegis, is also a test for this.

The Libyan arrives in Rome at the head of a large delegation of ministers and men of sub-government, and will meet the leaders of the Italian executive, starting with Prime Minister Mario Draghi .

As underlined by Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio – who in recent days was in Tripoli with his Maltese colleague and the EU Commissioner to talk above all about immigration – the Business Forum, organized by the Farnesina, will have a lot of importance.

The Libyans are in fact aware that the economic-productive recovery, a technological relaunch (with a thought necessary for the energy transition ), the stabilization of the connected social problems, are the decisive elements to find that desired peace and prosperity.

In this, the role of Europe is potentially indispensable; and here Italy is in the front row.

Federica Saini Fasanotti , historian of the Brookings Institution and experton Libya policy , recalls the special relationship between Rome and Tripoli since the time of Gaddafi; the 2008 Treaty of Friendship and Partnership under the Berlusconi government is an often cited recent example, but even before in Craxi’s time, relations were good.

In fact, I believe that Gaddafi’s biggest mistake was to send away in a flutter of wings an Italian community of twenty thousand people that was fundamental for the Libyan economy and that would have formed the basis for the development of the private sector, which instead in Libya has never developed ”.

And now?

Everyone’s good will be excellent – replies Saini Fasanotti to – but I still see a rather leaden sky over the Libyan skies. There is still no constitutional basis for the December 24 elections; there is the problem of deciding whether the presidential elections should be directed or not, and there is a rooted elite with the country in their handsfor some time he has not wanted to give up on direct voting.

Added to this is the issue of security: a fundamental pillar that does not only concern external actors, who in some ways provide a sort of stability at the bottom, but I am talking about internal militias.

How to manage them?

Who gives us the guarantee that the elections will be held safely?

Who will preside over the polling stations?

Who will protect the population?

There is no real security force, as we know: so what will happen in the face of the electoral results? ”.

Problems which the Dabaiba government, committed to accrediting itself abroad in visits such as those to Rome, Paris, Ankara or Moscow, is trying to address, with another unresolved internal issue: power – still strong, muscular as demonstrated by the recent military parade – enjoyed by militiaman leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi.

Dabaiba’s role is to organize the elections convened by the UN for December 24, and to do so by managing the ordinary administration, telling a stillness even better than the real situation, and perhaps bringing with it some results that can be spent for the future” , comments Karim Mezran , head of the Atlantic Council’s North Africa Initiative.

Mezran agrees with Saini Fasanotti that elections are the crucial step: “Many of the most important politicians, such as Fathi Bashaga or Ahmed Maiteeg (respectively former minister and vice president of the previous UN government, ed.) to name two, they remained outside the current government because they are organizing for the electoral race. The situation is still very fragmented, real power is in the hands of different entities, partly the UN, partly Turks and Russians, partly Western interlocutors, or even the militias ”. 

We are in June and there is still no general approval of the budget, necessary to actually restart the country and approved only for the rate that concerns the payment of public salaries: more than an indication of this fragmentation, which represents a concern if something with the vote should go wrong.

The stability of Libya is still tied to the presence on the ground of Russian and Turkish-Syrian mercenaries and militias, and at this moment Tripoli is unable to impose withdrawals and dissolutions on certain forces.

In this – according to Arturo Varvelli ,  director of the European council on foreign relations (ECFR) in Rome – “Europe and the United States must demonstrate closeness to Libya, detaching it from certain actors who, like Turkey, could in a certain sense be institutionalized framework of an international mission to accompany the country towards the elections ”.

A first step would be an international mission which would also include military advisers and which would have the aim of helping Libyan institutions“, Varvelli proposes, recalling that pockets of resistance still exist in the country such as the Haftarian organization in the phase of ” strategic truce “.

 “For the stability of Libya – continues Varvelli – Italy must play its cards on the economic level because on that of security the difficulties are various and the means put in place are scarce. Even as the EU. But Rome can play an important role in socio-economic revitalization, with Eni for example being a weapon to reactivate the Libyan oil machine and launch the country towards new energies ”.


Original Article: La Libia cerca sponda in Italia. Analisi sulla visita di Dabaiba a Roma


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