Italy’s Bad Romance: How Berlusconi Went Gaga for Gaddafi

Time has just published my story on Italy’s tight ties to Libya.

The longest underwater pipeline in the Mediterranean runs from the coast of Libya to the Italian island of Sicily. Inaugurated in 2004 by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the 323 miles (520 km) pipeline and its northward flow of gas might as well be a symbol of the relationship between the two countries.

Of all the mutual back-scratching among Europe’s rich democracies and North Africa’s strongmen, Italy’s dependency on Gaddafi stands apart. Libya is Italy’s largest supplier of oil, providing for roughly a third of the country’s energy consumption. The dictator’s government owns a substantial share of the Milan stock market, including 7.5% of Unicredit, Italy’s largest bank; 2% of the Italian oil company ENI; 2% of the country’s second largest industrial group, Finmeccanica; and 7% of the Turin-based Juventus soccer club. Libya also provides a critical market for its northern neighbor’s struggling construction firms. And, since 2008, when Italy agreed to invest $5 billion in Libya, Gaddafi has kept a tight grip on the attempts by his citizens and other African migrants to take ships northward on the Mediterranean.

Read the rest.

 

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