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Once upon a time there was Mare Nostrum. The shipwreck of Italian foreign policy

07 ottobre 2021

Once upon a time there was Mare Nostrum. The shipwreck of Italian foreign policy

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The Mediterranean is a sea that contains 1% of the planet's water but within which 20% of the world's maritime traffic takes place. This data is enough to understand the importance of the role of Mare Nostrum, which is no longer owned by anyone, least of all Italy. A real "geopolitical shipwreck".

Michela Mercuri, Professor at the "Niccolò Cusano" University, and Paolo Quercia, Director of GeoTrade magazine and Professor at the University of Perugia started from this image in their latest book "Naufragio Mediterraneo" (Paesi Edizioni). Introduced by Professor Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, they were the protagonists, on Monday 4 October, of the first appointment of ASERIncontra, the cycle of conferences promoted by the University's Graduate School of Economics and International Relations.

«Along with the Mediterranean we have lost our certainties. It is now a liquid’ area, politically unstable, without established borders. A scenario in which we have found ourselves profoundly disoriented, well before the revolutions of the Arab Spring. And the change was already underway since 2003 with the outbreak of the second war in Iraq». Prof. Mercuri said.

«In politics when an empty space is created someone else comes to fill it. It also happened in the Mediterranean with the entrance of China, Russia and Turkey that have taken advantage of the disengagement of USA and Italy. Ankara in particular has extended its area of influence in western Libya to the point that many international observers have now renamed the area as Turkistan». Prof. Mercuri said.

And in all of this, there is a lack of Europe, which is "totally unglued, especially on the management of migrants". For Italy, the time has come to say enough with the so-called ‘Politics of the Chair’ that reduces us to gathering the crumbs left by the other powers sitting at the table. In the last ten years, none of the governments ‒ of all parties ‒ that have succeeded each other have focused on the problems of the South. It is necessary to outline a precise political line with greater responsibility and more instruments (such as a strengthening of our ports). Also because it is clear that not everyone has our best interests at heart".

Another very important aspect, often underestimated, is that the destiny of the sea is decided...on land. Often very far from the coasts: «One thing that is not remembered enough is that the boats that leave from Libya are mostly carrying people who are not Libyan. And most of the people who die during the crossings are not citizens of the Mediterranean countries"»‒ Paolo Quercia said.

«Granted that 'natural' geopolitical regions do not exist, the mistake was in considering this area as something stable regardless. But it is not so, the sea, unlike the land, is a hostile environment that you cannot anthropomorphize and consequently is very difficult to control» ‒ Paolo Quercia added.

«In order to have a say in foreign policy, it is necessary to have something of your own to put on the table. Qatar, to give an example, exploits its oil on the international stage. Here, Italy's 'oil' is its position within the Mediterranean. We must set a clear line, consistent with our history, which is traditionally conciliatory and not aggressive. Because foreign policy is also a testimony of civilization. Let's not forget that we are the only country that has produced not one but two civilizations, the Greek-Roman and the Renaissance ones».

«We cannot always wait for Europe, also because it is Europe that expects something from us, in that area Europe is Italy. It is also important to set ourselves clear and achievable objectives. Let's take Libya as an example: those who control it also hold our country in check because they have a 'blackmail' weapon in their hands. Let us not forget that the only missiles that hit our territory in the Cold War era came from there. But to do this, we need to invest. Let us take, for example, the diplomatic corps. In the area, to give a significant example, Italy has 25-30 diplomats. A derisory number. In Libya we are gambling our European future. The Union's foreign policy is nothing more than a coordinated concert of the various national policies. The void caused by Italy's absence on the scene also generates problems for the EU». Prof. Mercuri stated.

Professor Parsi also shared this point of view: «It is necessary to have a vision; if you don't have one, no one will take you into consideration. And, right now, it is not clear what Italy wants. And in today's world, which is much more complex than in the past, this lack is even more pronounced».

«It would be very important to intervene on the excessive weight of the private sector in international politics. It should be made clear with these subjects that instability is a disadvantage and those who take profits in a certain area should be encouraged to invest on stability. The hope is that the post-pandemic world will be more sensitive to certain issues. To do this, however, it is necessary to overcome the dualism of realism versus sentimentality. Both are necessary in politics» ‒ Prof. Parsi added.

The next appointment with ASERIncontra, "L'Africa che ci sta fronte. Una storia italiana: dal colonialismo al terzomondismo", will be held on Monday 11 October. Speakers will include Professor Leila El Houssi of Rome's La Sapienza University and Professor Michela Mercuri of the "Niccolò Cusano" University. Professor Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, Director of Aseri, will moderate the event.

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Luca Aprea

Luca Aprea

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