At the end of July, when France and Italy were about to sign a deal sealing the grip of Italy’s largest and most profitable company, Fincantiere, on France’s massive shipbuilding industry, Macron upset the applecart by announcing the suspension of the business agreement.
Macron claimed it was to protect French jobs: but it was clearly a move to reassert French control over one of the country’s most strategically important companies.
The Italian media, having first hailed Macron’s presidency as the promise of “the exemplary Statism and Europeanism” so lacking in their own bourgeoisie, immediately denounced him as a miserable Trump-like protectionist and “Sovereignist”, who needed to be taught a lesson by the Italian government. The pathetic so called “communists” of Il Manifesto called for a defence of “national dignity too long humiliated”.
The important point here (apart from noting that a year before Fincantiere had more than ably protected “national dignity” by literally stealing from the French a contract for building the world’s largest fleet in Qatar) is that Macron’s abrupt violation of diplomatic and formal norms of business etiquette “at home” was quickly followed by something similar “abroad”, again at the expense of the Italians.
Just when the Italian premier was about to host a convention on the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean, Macron seized the headlines and the initiative with the announcement of a successful accord between the president of Libya’s Government of National Agreement, Al Farrag, and General Hafter. Hafter’s forces control around three-quarters of the country, consigning the Italian-, UN-, British- and USA-backed Al Farrag regime to Tripoli and its environs.
The accord acknowledged the French-led initiative and promised concrete steps between the divided forces to bring about national and regional unity with the support of “the international community”, including the Egyptians, Russians and Chinese who had participated in the Macron exercise. And all of this without a whisper of information to the Italians.
Macron added insult to injury when, in his opening address to his partners, he praised the Italians for their “unequalled record of humanitarian work in the Mediterranean”, while his country turns an even-more-deaf ear to Italian pleas to open its borders to asylum-seekers.
It was against this background that Gentiloni and Interior Minister Minniti sought to recuperate Italy’s international image and clout when in a panicky pact with Al Serrag they announced the beefing up of Italy’s presence in Libya with ships, soldiers, and money, while effectively annulling the NGO operations in the Mediterranean.
These actions will consign the refugees to the camps of Al Sarrag, the Islamic fundamentalists, or Hafter, while mouthing platitudes for public consumption about “helping the refugees in their own homes”.
Thus Hafter the former Gaddafi military leader positions himself more and more as the pivotal player to the stabilisation of the country. Hafter’s project of pacifying and uniting the country — or at least the 40 or so most powerful tribes — is necessary to any reconstruction.
Hafter has set himself up as the standard-bearer of imperial interests in the jockeying for the prize, and he has brokered a deal with France to link Libya via a canal to Mali, Niger and Chad.
Italy may be tempted by his proposals on the migrant and refugee problem. He has condemned “the useless exercise to block the arrival of the refugees on the coast, simply creating an ever-mounting burden and crisis for Libyans, and a growing threat to the country’s sovereignty”.
His solution gets to his murderous point “Give me 20 billion dollars — I will build a military system to filter and block everything and everyone along the 4000 km border of the Libyan desert. I possess the soldiers, I can marshall the workers — I lack machines, I lack training courses for frontier guards, arms and munitions — 20 billion dollars from Europe and you will have no more problems.”
The nightmare and bottomless horrors faced by Africa’s migrants deepens by the day, and now the fruits of imperial and domestic reaction have summoned the spectre of a former Gaddafi butcher with a recipe for totalitarian mass murder.