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L'Indro / Regional dialogue with Africa and the report Italy-Eritrea

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Regional dialogue with Africa and the report Italy-EritreaInterview with Nicola Pedde, Director of the Institute for Global Studies in Rome

Involvement of local, regional, and civilian administrations in a multi-tiered and joint strategy between the European Union and African countries: this is the opening theme of the Abidjan meetings these days. The dialogue was initiated yesterday by the ' First Forum of Local Governments Africa-Europe ' on the pioneering initiative of Panama and Gouvernements locais Unis d'Afrique ( CGLU ), Panama , in partnership with other European and international actors, the decentralization of cooperative policies as a way to the development of local communities and the exchange of experience in a unitary way.
Among the organizers of the Forum, CGLU is joined by the ' Council of Commons and Regions of Europe ' (CCRE), born in 1951, which constitutes a 'federation' network of national associations of local and regional authorities in 42 countries European, and the PLATFORMA coalition . Established at the end of 2008 in implementation of a Communication from the European Commission, the latter has more than 100,000 territorial representations in order to ensure a stronger integration of local and regional perspectives into European development cooperation programs ('decentralized cooperation').
As ferment and expectations grow, 'parallel' conferences are organized - such as the one open on Sunday at the Treichville Palace, the district district of Ivorian capital, to better define issues to be discussed on 29 and 30 November. Among the 600 participants, Hélène Gnionsahe , President of the Côte d'Ivoire Civil Society Convention, said that "despite the partnership, Africa does not go ahead. There is much debate today and civil society is presenting its report to the political class. "His position on the 'faults' of African development is transparent: " Today, responsibility for the growth of our countries lies with our Heads of State. We do not have to see young people dying in the Mediterranean to react to this stalemate . "
Tomorrow will open the fifth edition of the Africa-EU Summit - the first to be held in Sub-Saharan Africa - titled 'Investing in Youth for a Sustainable Future'. The event includes the participation of the Presidents of their respective Union bodies (UA Commission and African Union, European Commission and Council) and Heads of State and Government, meeting within the framework of the Common Strategy established in Lisbon in 2007 on principles of common interest (trade interchange, job creation, infrastructure, skills development and exchange of experiences) and global issues such as peace and security, migration, climate-environmental issues, democraticgovernance and respect for human rights. These are the themes of the debate, but at the very center of the issue of younger generations : a conscious perspective - at least in the intent - to look at the criticalities of a young continent and in demographic expansion like the African one, where 60% of the population has fewer of 25 years.
A strategic discussion on global issues also responds to the attempt to overcome the old terms of the asymmetric, colonial matrix relationship, in which the North / South dialogue has been structured since the start of development aid policies. The same choice, for the Summit in question, of the Sub-Saharan-Western context - particularly the Ivorian one - highlights Ivorian relations and economic interests with countries such as Morocco or France. Nonetheless, strong in a total foreign investment plan estimated at 44 billion euros, political discourse is here marked by the urgency of an active reconfiguration of dialogue in the same sense to get out of the stasis to which explicitly refers Gnionsahe.
However, this new type of relationship does not erase the historical burden of old ties and strengths dating back to colonial and post-colonial periods, which still define entire regions of the African continent as 'areas of influence' of different European countries 
One step away from the event, we ask about the Italian peculiarity of the evolution of diplomatic and cooperative relations with the Horn of Africa region . In particular, we think of Eritrea because of the political and diplomatic loophole that began with the conflict that struck the country (1998-2000) and the progressive deterioration of relations that took place more recently. With regard to the visit he former Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli in 2014, Nicola Pedde , Director of ' ' Institute for Global Studies ' of Rome wrote about the opportunity to address " the entire Horn of Africa  an intervention project rather more courageous and consistent, assuming the leadership of European support and aiming at institutional reconstruction and the country's cultural relaunch. " According to the expert, resources for such a project should have been found "redefining the priorities of Italian intervention in Africa and, more generally, in the international context". With this premise,let's go back to ask him what was - if any - the evolution in recent years.
 Dr. Pedde, thinking of the commitment to the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia and, more recently, the relations between Italy and Eritrea - especially after the UN- approved 2009embargo - as they have changed, taking into account the main interests Italians in the area, our country's relations with Eritrea?
The speech can not be addressed without taking into account its regional dimension of the Horn of Africa. Our engagement in this context has been characterized by a number of highs and lows in the last sixty years: let's say since the end of the last World War and, subsequently, by the resumption of our diplomatic capabilities in the region.
In fact, we have had a very active presence on some fronts, albeit with a very low political profile, which has never allowed us to spend more concrete and effective action against the Horn Countries, especially Somalia and the United States, Eritrea. The problem was born somewhat from post-war narrative, and then from the narrative that in our country has characterized the most academic debate of Africanism on ex-colonies. In the end, political dualism has also been able to reverberate in that part of the debate, creating enormous damage to the country's ability to be more explicit.
What is the nature of this dualism?
More explicitly, a part of Africanism, whatever it was, accused the political system of neo-colonialism, while on the other hand it was always seen as an absence of capacity and interest in those countries, which is not true: the interest has been and was also concrete. Italy's political line has been affected by this fundamental ambiguity with the effect of not being able to build, in the end, that visibility that was also required by the countries of the region. Eritrea and Somalia have repeatedly accused us of being absent or, in any case, not being effective in the way they expected, that is, with respect to our political action of economic cooperation.
How do you interpret this accusation?
In some ways they were right, especially as they were not effective from the point of view of the narrative of the message we transmitted to societies and local politics. Then there is a further complication, which has to do with the dark years, inherent in the consolidation of authoritarian regimes in the region. Economic stagnation has favored, especially in the case of Siad Barre in Somalia, a strong verticalization of the relationship with some entities, which then - with corruption and dispersion of funds - caused a disastrous result. This is a phenomenon most concerned with Eritrea's Somalia, but somehow has reverberated its effects on the management capacity of the entire region. This is a huge problem. With Eritrea, there has been an initial assessment problem, in the sense that the process leading the country to independence has in the end been managed as a military crisis that was to end without, however, finding a real solution . Italy should have been much more incisive, especially by employing the country much more effectively and directly in the years immediately following independence, something which, in some respects, was lacking: it was a minimum of commercial penetration capacity, a fact which has helped to create that sense of isolation that would later lead to the gradual closure of the local political system. President Isaias Akewerki , without going into the merit of what his personal conception of politics in the evolution of the country has always seen in Italy, is an actor who is not present, an actor who did not have a clear political line or strategy on the entire Horn of Africa. This is one of the things that, unfortunately, we can not deny.
How has our 'absence' declined?
Our Foreign Ministry has for a long time had a very ambiguous policy on the Horn. First of all, there was a lack of planning, followed by the fear of engaging political systems that were gradually transforming into authoritarianism. This shortage of engagement has further favored the local crisis process, consolidating a dimension of the relationship that ultimately affected major issues such as post-conflict conflict with Ethiopia or security management in the area border. Outside these areas, we have not been able to create a long-term program, and even today, if we look at the result on the ground, it is visible how much our projection ability in the countries of the area - Eritrea and Somalia in particular - is really to the minimum terms.
Are there no emblematic actions - speaking of cooperative policies and international integration - on the Italian side of Eritrea ?
Cooperation has undergone a further blow in the recent years of a departure from the Eritrean government. This, moreover, is the result of a long crisis of at least 6 or 7 years. The key problem is that, as I said, planning was missing ... There was a project missing on the country. This has prevented the consolidation of the experiences and contact attempts and the management of the praiseworthy or otherwise concrete relationships. They all came to nothing because of the absence of the government counterpart. The only concrete post-war attempt, perhaps late, was that of 3 years ago by Vicentier Pistels. On her trip to the region, she had done a great job of planning what was possible to reestablish relations with the countries in the area. Especially with Eritrea, he had clearly opened a window at Akewerfi and the country, which seemed to be able to turn into something concrete. This time because of the inability or political impossibility of Eritrea - on this is difficult to judge - this has not materialized again.
We entered a 'limbo' from which we do not seem to be able to get out - nor will Eritrea alone will be able to do it. At this time, I do not see great projection skills or great ability to identify a line of interest for the country in the region. It seems to me that the Horn of Africa has disappeared again from our foreign policy. We have this small contingent in Somalia that nobody talks about. There are a number of small attempts to contact the Somali local political system, but here too there is no manifestation of interest to turn it into a clear political line towards the region.
What are the economic interests in the Horn area and the possible future goals of a co-operative programming of duration?
In general, interests are currently attributed to actors other than European ones, particularly Turkey in Somalia, while Qatar has a number of very interesting programs on the region. There are a number of real estate investments for reconstruction and renovation of state properties that will be functional to the management of economic and production activities; there is also an attempt to revitalize the fabric of small and medium-sized enterprises in Somalia through microcredit programs that tend to finance a number of local entrepreneurs, especially in agro-food (local fruit crops and breeding). But things are pretty modest for the moment, and everything is still about humanitarian aid and remittances. There is, with a view to investing in real estate, this idea of ​​the development of tourism, but we are far from Somalia to talk about any such hypothesis.
Italy then has a number of interests linked to ENI in defining the fields that have gone to exploration, but Somalia is still blocked both in terms of security and territorial dispute in the south with Kenya .There is then another set of potential interests linked to fisheries contracts from which we are virtually absent.
On Eritrea, despite the country being certainly less problematic in Somalia from the point of view of security, Italian projection is virtually nothing. There are very few small industries active in mining;Beyond these, the others are conceivable. The Italian community in the area is also reduced.Nowadays, there are very few Italians in the generation who have concrete industrial interests that have remained and have been able to maintain their control over these productive activities. Much of it is made up of Italo-Eritreans - therefore, even from the point of view of citizenship, they are practically local citizens.
At the time of the last Berlusconi government, there had been an attempt at real estate development in the Massaua area for the development of a number of tourism-related infrastructures, which should have seen the transformation of the former Massawa military track in an airport open to civil traffic. After the first meetings, nothing has been done: there are various complications from the point of view of management and Italian companies on the ground  and the project has arisen. The idea was to turn a part of the coast north of Massawa into a development area for resort construction.
From the point of view of Security and, considering the nature of the Karthoum Process, the containment of the flows at the frontiers, what effects did they produce?
The containment of flows, unfortunately, is the effect of regional policies. There is - and that is undoubtedly - a great deal of people moving from the region: not only eritreas, but also Ethiopians and Somalis, and everyone is fleeing from different crises. In addition to Somalia's conflicts and instability, there is also the economic crisis in Ethiopia, which is one of the major generators of these flows.
Regarding flows affecting Eritrea, there is the economic issue and, above all, of the mandatory military service. Flow control depends on the logic of the policies: streamlining has occurred when Sudan 'sanitized' the border, closing for a long time most of the accesses, which has enormously limited the number of Eritreans and Ethiopians in flight north. However, there is no capacity to limit these flows as a result of a policy of economic development or regional stability. We are far from finding the solution to the problem.
At first, in October 2016, the Eritrean Foreign Minister said to our press: "We are working with Germany and other countries of the Union, but not with Italy. We wonder why. " Subsequently, in July this year, the Speaker's spokesman asked for investment in Italy .... And it does not help in money. On the basis of these appeals, can you predict the resumption of a political-diplomatic, economic and long-term dialogue with these countries, and can this be the subject of tomorrow's EU Summit in Abidjan?
In theory, yes. The demands of the Eritrean government are also legitimate, as are the questions asked by the Italian government. That is: what guarantees and what management criteria does Eritrea can provide to Italian investors?
This part, honestly, lacks in the sense that Eritrea is not an easy or transparent country. From the point of view of investments by Italian companies and on-site economic activities , the guarantees offered by the Eritrean government have always been faulty. There have also been cases of major disputes in the past that have not yet been resolved, and this is a response that the Eritrean government must give. I believe that, on the Italian side, interest is always present; Eritrea for a number of reasons, not least the historical one, remains a priority for the country. But the relationship is very difficult. I understand the criticisms that will be well-founded, but Eritrea has no transparency and guarantee criteria on foreign investment that can be considered an opportunity at this time.
*Software translation*

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