In her first-ever bilateral visit to a foreign country, Giorgia Meloni, the Prime Minister of Italy, arrived in Algiers on Sunday. The visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of the friendship treaty between Italy and Algeria, which was signed on January 27, 2003.
Aimene Benabderrahmane, the Prime Minister of Algeria, greeted her. Meloni made a wreath-laying visit at the Martyrs' Monument first, as do all distinguished visitors. The monument, which is perched on a mountaintop overlooking the capital, honors Algerians who lost their lives during the fight for the nation's independence from France in 1962.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Algeria has supplanted Russia as Italy’s top supplier of natural gas. The two nations are attempting to establish a strategic alliance as Italy seeks to lessen its reliance on Russian energy with the assistance of the gas-rich North African nation. Meloni's agenda also reportedly included discussions on building ships, automobiles, and start-ups, indicating that the two nations may be able to work together more closely.
The Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Meloni held a meeting on Monday. After that, several agreements are slated to be signed, but it is not yet clear if there will be another energy deal.
At the same time, Antonio Tajani, the Foreign Minister of Italy, and Matteo Piantedosi, the Interior Minister, traveled as part of an Italian delegation to promote the stabilization of Libya, which is the main transit country for migrants trying to enter Italy illegally. Tunis was the first stop on the delegation’s three-capital tour, followed by Istanbul and Cairo. Antonio Tajani and Matteo Piantedosi arrived in Tunis on January 18, where they met with Kais Saied, the President of Tunisia. The ministers met with their Tunisian counterparts to talk about maintaining stability in the Mediterranean region and stemming migration flows.
According to Minister Tajani, Rome wants to work with Tunis to "reduce irregular immigration and boost regular immigration." It was his first trip to Tunisia following the election of Meloni’s far-right government in Italy in October. Since then, the government has sworn to restrict the flow of migrants traveling via the Mediterranean and has issued a decree limiting NGOs’ ability to do rescue operations at sea. The delegation discussed economic assistance and trade partnerships in exchange for additional quotas for the decree restricting migratory flows and improved monitoring of the coastline.
Following the diplomatic mission to Tunisia, the Italian delegation departed for Egypt, another important transit country. Tajani claimed that although the subject of energy security and economic cooperation in the Mediterranean came up during their meeting, the political unrest in Libya and measures to halt irregular immigration from that country took precedence. Egyptian migrants were among the top nationalities in 2022 who arrived on the coasts of Europe, mostly by passing through the neighboring country of Libya before embarking on dangerous sea crossings.
According to Tajani, the cases of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student who was abducted, tortured, and killed in Cairo in 2016, and Patrick George Zaki, an Egyptian activist who was studying in Bologna and had been held for nearly two years, were brought up with the Egyptian president. Cairo and Rome's relationship was strained by the Regeni affair, which involved allegations of torture and murder by Regeni's family and Italian officials.
Tajani's claim that Egypt had provided assurances on the Regeni and Zaki cases drew harsh criticism from opposition political groups in Italy. Lia Quartapelle, an Italian politician of the Democratic Party who had previously served on a special parliamentary commission looking into Regeni's case, has previously declared that Egypt cannot be trusted until all of the facts surrounding Regeni’s murder are made public. Security agencies in Egypt continue to deny involvement in Regeni's kidnapping or death. Zaki, on the other hand, hasn't been authorized to travel since his release in December 2021 and awaits his trial on charges of circulating false information about Egypt both locally and internationally.
The Italian diplomatic missions are taking place following Meloni's announcement of her cabinet’s new policy strategy toward Africa in December. Meloni named the policy "Piano Mattei" -- after Enrico Mattei, the previous founder of Agip and Eni, the Italian state-owned energy corporation.
Meloni argues in her strategy that pursuing stability and security in the Mediterranean through collective actions would benefit all countries in the region. She wishes for Italy to "reclaim its leading role" in Africa, emphasizing the importance of uniting and stabilizing Libya. Tajani stated that his trip to Egypt and Tunisia, and Meloni's visit to Algeria, were aimed at strengthening Italy's energy relations in the region and more crucially, to halt the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
To bring the series of diplomatic visits to a close, Meloni will visit Libya on January 28, accompanied by ministers Tajani and Piantedosi. According to reports, the visit could result in new oil deals between Eni and National Oil Corporation, a company controlled by Libya's Government of National Unity in Tripoli.
Cover photo: Giorgia Meloni lays a floral wreath at the Martyrs’ Monument in Algeria. Source: Italian Government
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