by Sami Zaptia
Tripoli, March 23: Maurizio Massari, Special Envoy for the Mediterranean and the Arab Spring countries for the Italian Minister . . .[restrict]of Foreign Affairs concluded his visit to Libya on Wednesday.
During his visit, he told the Libya Herald that he had conveyed to the Libyan side the message from the Italian Foreign Minister of the strong solidarity and appreciation for Libya’s transition to democracy.
He reassured Libya of Italy’s continued help in becoming a democratic and united country and was regarded by Italy as an important regional player which was confirmed by Libya in the Rome 5+5 meeting in February at which Libya was an active participant.
Special Envoy Massari confirmed that in his discussions with Libya’s Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib they talked about the issue of border security in which Italy sees Libya as an important player.
The issue of illegal immigration from various sub-Saharan African state is seen as “a priority issue for the Italian government,” Massari stressed. Both short- and long-term measures were discussed, including ones offering solutions at the countries of the immigrants’ origin. He said that Italy was working on several many ideas on the the border control issue.
On a more practical level, Massari revealed that Italy was offering help regarding spare parts for Libyan boats and helping train 350 Libyans in the security sector in such matters as investigation, document control and other related security control areas. This training had already started, he said.
With regards to Syria, Massari confirmed that both countries were very sensitive to the sufferings of the Syrian people and would encourage the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution on the matter. Italy hopes to engage with the Syrian opposition in the hope that they can unify themselves so as to provide a credible alternative.
Massari also revealed that he had met with some Libyan political parties with whom he discussed preparations for the June elections. Italy, he stressed, believed that that it was very important for Libya to keep on track with its June election timetable for the sake of credibility. He said that the Libyan government also shared this view.
The special envoy also reported that he found “reassuring awareness that Libya should be a civic, democratic, united, inclusive state, economically open to the outside world and foreign investment. The message I received from the political parties is that there is no serious risk of extremists taking over in Libya.”
He recognized that institutional structures were still weak in Libya and that there was a tendency to form parties around personalities and tribal links. Equally, ut was evident that the issues of political parties and their rules, the registration of voters and the details of voting districts were still at this stage not very clear. These could all be improved, but the deadline for elections would hopefully be adhered to.
Massari also reported on his visit to Benghazi where he met Benghazi Local Council leader Jamal Banour as well as the media, NGOs and political party representatives. They discussed decentralization within a united Libya. The topic of federalism was not specifically discussed, he said, but admitted that it was part of the debate — a healthy debate that is part of democracy, he said.
He confirmed that there were discussions on the re-launch of economic development in the non-oil sectors and the possibility of launching programmes to help Libyan youth and women. Italy was already helping train members of the Libyan media in Italy. The issue of transitional justice was also discussed.
“I found a unanimous appreciation for the role that Italy played in Libya’s efforts’ in the Revolution,” Massari confirmed. “We believe that Libya is a crucial partner and there is room for even closer cooperation. The special relationship has to be re-interpreted in light of Libya’s revolution,” Massari explained.
He pointed out that there were a number of joint ventures (JV) such as the Iveco JV, the Sirt JV and the Finmeccanica JV. For example, he mentioned, that it was hoped that the helicopter assembly plant would move from assembly to production. Italy was committed to these JVs and agreed that they were important for the transfer of technology, he stated.
Finmeccanica’s joint venture with LIATEC (Libyan Italian Advanced Technology Company) opened in April 2010. The assembly and maintenance plant is based in Abu Aisha, on the road to Tarhuna.
In 2010, Amedeo Caporaletti, President of AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica’s helicopter subsidiary, had said that LIATEC’s cost was estimated at €80 million, and that the initial plan had been for the factory to assemble four AW139 helicopters a year with the hope of selling to African markets in the future.
On other possible Libyan-Italian economic cooperation, Massari stressed that Italy was ready to take part in the Misrata Free Zone Project. “Three weeks ago members of Italy’s economic department visited Misrata and Benghazi to try to reactivate some of these agreements and projects,” he said.
“We are planning a series of civil society forums in Italy in June in Naples in order to engage the youth on the political transition in the Arab Spring nations and on rapprochement between the shores of the Mediterranean,” Massari stated.
In conclusion, when asked what he saw as the biggest challenges facing Libya, it was informative to hear that he did not mention the usual suspects of security, stability, the freedom fighters and the issue of dispersed arms.
“Building institutions” was his response to the question. “Democracy is a process and Libya must start on that process. The June election is an important part of that start and that process. The elections, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, might not be perfect, but they will be a start.” [/restrict]