The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

Berlusconi ‘buys’ Peace with Libya with $5 billion and Venus of Cyrene

Malta Independent Sunday, 31 August 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

After a build-up lasting years, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi signed an Italian-Libyan Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with Muammar Gaddafi yesterday in Benghazi.

The main feature of the treaty is that it establishes the “war reparations” due to Libya by Italy at $5 billion. This huge sum will be spread over a period of 25 years, with $200 million a year.

It will be spent on building a coastal motorway 2,000 km long, from the frontier with Tunisia to the frontier with Egypt that will cost e3,000 million, together with plans for residential homes and infrastructure works for rural areas.

It was in July 1998 that then foreign minister Lamberto Dini admitted in a joint communiqué that Italy’s faults during the colonial period were “grave”.

A Libyan delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Al Obeidi, was in Rome in the past days to discuss the details of the agreement with an Italian delegation led by Under-Secretary Gianni Letta and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

According to the Italian media yesterday, it is still unclear where the $200 million a year will be found, whether they will be paid by the Italian State or whether a complex mechanism, created by former Foreign Minister Massimo d’Alema, will be found as part payment for Libyan oil.

Another part of the agreement concerns the removal of mines laid by the Italian forces between 1911 and 1943.

As regards the $600 million claimed by Italian companies from their Libyan counterparts, the Libyan delegation has offered to pay around $400 million or two-thirds of the amount due. No obstacles have been raised on visas to be issued to Italian citizens who once lived in Libya, or study grants to Libyan students in Italy.

Premier Berlusconi also promised the return to its native land of not just the famous Classic statue of the Venus of Cyrene, but also other historical artefacts that originated from Libya.

As regards immigration, a subject that Mr Berlusconi wanted so much to discuss, it seems the agreement did not enter into detailed commitments. It repeats the commitment to collaborate to try and stem the influx of illegal immigrants by implementing what was already agreed on last year by former Interior Minister Giuliano Amato but never fully applied.

However, Italy has committed itself to give Libya, through Finmeccanica, a radar system to help monitor the country’s southern borders with co-financing by the EU to try and stem the arrival of irregular immigrants from sub-Sahara areas.

Yet another chapter concedes pension rights to the heirs of Libyans who fought alongside the Italians during World War II. This will not amount to a huge sum but will be negatively viewed by the associations of Italians exiled from Libya. Gaddafi kicked 20,000 Italians out of Libya in July 1970, leaving all their possessions in Libya. Over the last few years they have been partially indemnified by Italy. The association said in a statement that to satisfy all its requests, no less than e300 million would be required.

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