The FIRST number of Atlantis in 2020 (SPRING), coincides with the pandemic period and the health emergency caused by Coronavirus 19, to which the Diseases in the World column is dedicated.
the Dossier is entitled: Convergences and divergences of the interests of the major European countries in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East by Letter from Ambassador Maurizio Melani through the prestigious collaboration with the Diplomatic Studies Circle of Rome of which he is Co-President.
This year, the covers will be dedicated to the great protagonists of western rational thought, starting with Galileo Galilei.
The town focus is signed by Domenico Letizia.
The postponement of the first edition of the International Festival of European Geopolitics in early autumn does not preclude its presentation.

Freedom in the time of emergency


The recent health emergency due first to the epidemic and then to the pandemic triggered by the spread of the so-called Coronavirus or Covid-19 has opened - especially in the area of ​​the most attentive professionals (and certainly not among the public and users of social networks) an intense and in-depth debate on the border - sometimes indecipherable - between individual freedom and collective interest.

The drastic measures taken by some governments immediately or almost, starting with the Italian one, were initially commented with deliberate and libertarian skepticism and concern. Sometimes opposing solid legal arguments to over wielding the sword controversy for love of opposing at all costs.

Italian measures have deep historical roots. Very distant and dating back to pre-unitary times.

If 1258 was the year in Venice when the government began to deal with the regulation of the so-called arts of medicine and that of apothecaries, (pharmacists), 1348 should not be forgotten because, on the occasion of the terrible epidemic of black plague that hit the city, a new bureaucratic organ appeared as a temporary use, destined to become one of the most admired and most famous European civil courts over time: it was the Savij office made up of three nobilomeni and established with the main task of providing for the protection of public health, at that time seriously compromised by the disease, finally resolved the epidemic, the office was promptly abolished and then reintroduced again, always with the temporary character, at the onset of new plague epidemics that over the centuries plagued the city.

So the Republic of Venice.

When a ship arrived - he wrote in The Bureaucrat and the sailor Carlo Cipolla - he had to welcome the health guards on board, who had the task of discovering any irregularities in the cargo or between the crew(...). The guards remained on board the ship for the entire period of anti-purge and rigorous quarantine, after which period they had to spend an additional period of quarantine at the hospital. All this was at the expense of the British who, in addition to paying the guards for their inconvenience, had to provide them with food ». It is clear that the British blasphemed, engaging a century-old tug of war with the Tuscan government.

So Florence for the Medici Port of Livorno.

In the Coronavirus affair, finally, two fundamental components of public life reappeared on the Italian political scene: competence (scientific) and responsibility and the role of choice (political). And like it or not, citizenship (in the face of anti-Italianism) played its part by demonstrating sufficient civic education.

Inevitably, the polemics between political factions have not completely ceased, underlining the belonging of some parties and sides to the western and liberal-democratic way of feeling and others to the autocratic, illiberal and propagandistic way of reasoning.

The same (grotesque) attempt to narrate the story is exemplary. The disease occurs in China. He is downplayed for too long to be able to be eradicated in time, after which the autocrat chief of the communist party and president of the country Xi Jinping blames local officials for taking all credit for the heroic face of the crisis (the communist party had not named them Are those Chinese officials not part of a system devoid of parliamentary opposition controls and a freedom of the press inevitably as always?). When the disease spreads around the world and especially in Italy, we witness the unpleasant narrative of a China that rushes to the aid with its masks and its respirators (in reality not at all given away but sold on the basis of simple commercial transactions). In short, we must save the idea of ​​Via della Seta with the sound of smiles and signatures in front of cameras and flashes of photographers. And who are the pipers of this gigantic communication and political farce, immediately denounced vehemently and firmly by our Ambassador (historical collaborator of Atlantis) Giulio Terzi of Sant’Agata?

Those same who were on the side of the red flag at all costs “another emblem of the twentieth century based on the tombs of tens of millions of people... In particular in Russia and China... You have to do a kind of mental acrobatics to ignore the gulags and the terror and to say that overall communism was a positive experience- But even now after the opening of the archives there are always many who do not accept the idea that the faith of a life could have contributed to a mass murder Few could say that overall Nazism with the full employment and construction of the motorways has done good for Germany but when the hammer and sickle are involved, the aforementioned mental acrobatics are triggered. (Tim Marshall).

Finally, the health emergency ends and the political emergency begins. Indeed geopolitics. 


Dossier: Convergences and divergences of interests of the major European countri

Convergences and divergences of interests of the major European countries in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East

 Maurizio Melani. Diplomatic Letter 12 February 2018

From Letters on the World 2019 edition, Mazzanti Libri, Venice

Common and differentiated interests

We have convergences and divergences with our major European partners in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Overall, however, I believe that they are definitely more the former than the latter.

First of all in terms of security we all have an interest in conditions of peace and stability in these areas, in the defeat of jihadist groups and in the control of migratory phenomena. In Europe we can fight over the distribution and mobility of migrants, but the interest is the same with respect to the countries of origin and transit.

France undoubtedly has the advantage of a deep-rooted political, military and economic presence in the whole Sahelian belt which it intends to maintain. Its role in Africa, together with military capabilities and primarily nuclear deterrence and permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, is an essential constituent of its alleged status of great power.

Nigerian uranium in particular supplies a large part of the fuel of its electro-nuclear industry which still covers about 70% of the production of electricity, even if it is destined to decrease to 50% in 2025 and further decrease in subsequent years, which in part we also import, as well as its “force de frappe”.

France, however, cannot do everything alone and wants European partners to be involved in contributing to the stabilization of the region subjected today to the attack of the jihadist groups who also exploit a new Tuareg assertiveness, intertwining with large transnational organized crime phenomena that manages every type of trades.

Germany and Italy neither claim nor would have reason to alter the state of affairs which sees the centrality of the French role in the Sahel and albeit reluctantly collaborate in view of common interests. Germany has responded to the call to send forces to Mali after the major terrorist attacks in Paris. Italy has not done so, also because it had other commitments in Iraq for the fight against terrorism, and this has led to discontent in France. Now Italy is sending a contingent to Niger to support an African force because the country is central to controlling human trafficking. A temporary misunderstanding of communication with the Nigerian government which had also made one think of French bad temper has been overcome. There are no French doubts because our goals are clear and convergent. We certainly do not want to take away the uranium (China, India and South Korea think about it) which we need very little moreover and if we ever needed the supplies they would still be guaranteed within the framework of what the Euratom Treaty was absorbed in the Treaty of Lisbon.


Italy and France in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean, in addition to the common ones that we have with other European countries on the security and management of migratory flows, our specific interests are in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, as well as for different reasons in Egypt.

From Algeria, via Tunisia, we currently receive about a quarter of our gas supply, in the past more, whose need remains significant in the transition towards decarbonisation which we have started. From Libya we import around 10%. The dangers of interrupting the flows, which for us would be very serious, come from political instability in those countries and not from France which, also as a result of the Libyan lesson, has an interest in us as regards sustainable stability and therefore based on political structures and social inclusive and consensual.

Certainly Eni and Total can be, and sometimes are, competitors in various situations, but in others they form an alliance as often happens to the big globalized multinationals.

In Libya in particular, it seems unlikely, hardly feasible and useless that the French can or want to undermine us from the control of Wafa gas, in the south-west of the country and from here it goes via tube on the coast to Mellitah and then to Sicily.

There is more competition for oil. And Sarkozy’s hyperactivism in 2011 against Gaddafi made fear of attacks on Eni’s installations. The danger was averted by our participation in the operation and by the request, aided by the Americans and granted, that the command of the operation pass to NATO and therefore to a system of strategic direction, command and control in which we were fully present.

In Egypt, Eni is well established in the new offshore gas fields, as in the other more north-east in the Eastern Mediterranean, with partial competitions and alliances with Total and problems with Turkey for drilling in the areas of Cyprus. A substantial part of the production in front of the Nile delta will go to Egypt and should contribute to the economic and social development of the country, but once the necessary infrastructures have been built (via tube and therefore via Crete and Greece or with liquefaction and regasification plants) there will also be more supplies for Italy. For the construction of these infrastructures, Eni will use the market and it is said that it will use Italian companies after it has separated from its downstream capabilities (Saipem, Snam and Nuovo Pignone, the latter sold since 1993 to General Electric), having concentrated in the core business of exploration and extraction and maintaining a diminished role in refining in Italy.

In the face of diversification of sources and security of supply, the construction of the TAP pipeline for the transport of gas from Azerbaijian is important. It reduces dependence on Russian gas which, due to the subsequent crises in Ukraine and the construction of the North Stream, arrives in Italy especially from Germany with an increase in costs for Italian users.

The construction of the South Stream across the Black Sea, currently not on the agenda, would partially solve this problem, but would increase dependence on Russia.

Industrial rivalries and joint action for stability in the Middle East

In infrastructures and energy, in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, there are competitions above all with German companies that with Italians or in any case with productions in Italy even if with foreign properties they hold excellence in this field. This happens in Iraq, the Gulf countries, Turkey, Egypt and potentially Iran.

In Iraq, Italian companies collaborate in various projects with large Chinese companies of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which have capital and desire to invest them. In addition to the Iraqi government, they have European (including Eni), Asian and American oil companies.

Also in Iraq, the need to rehabilitate the great dam of Mosul, whose possible collapse due to damage that has worsened over time would be disastrous, has seen for years in competition an Italian company, Trevi, and a German company, Bauer, which are among those in the world who are best able to do certain jobs in situations of particular hydrogeological difficulty. In coincidence with the acceleration imposed by the danger that ISIS would take over the dam or blow it up, Trevi prevailed. The Italian government has decided to send a force of 450 men to protect the works and has finalized the use of part of an aid credit available for Iraq to complement World Bank funding for an Iraqi government weakened by the war and low oil prices.

A sector in which there is a direct rivalry with France, although partial considering the transversality also in this field, is that of the supply of military aircraft in which there is instead an alliance with other European countries. Here the competition is in particular between the French Rafale multirole aircraft, the Eurofighter made by an Anglo-Italian-German-Spanish consortium in which there is also an participation of Airbus albeit through its German component of Defense and Space, and the ‘F35 in which there is an Italian component.

The sale of military aircraft and other weapon systems to contrasting Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, if on the one hand responds to the need to maintain the sustainability of the European defense industries, on the other it risks complicating conflicts in the region with negative effects on populations’ security and exodus.

This is a theme that European security and defense integration processes, including for industrial and export aspects, should address in order to give coherence and unity to our policies in the various fields.

In the Middle East we are all interested in stabilization, as is China, whose energy dependence on that area (from which a part of the bundle of logistic corridors of the new silk road should also pass) is now comparatively much greater than ours. We are together with the French in southern Lebanon, where it is to be hoped that a common position will be maintained with respect to the latest serious developments in Syria, and with the French and Germans in Iraq. Although not directly part of the agreement to block the military development of Iranian nuclear capabilities, we have the same positions for its maintenance in the face of attacks from different but converging fronts by the Trump Administration, the most conservative Iranian circles, the Netaniahu Government and the Saudi Arabia, also supporting the need for a stronger role for the European institutions and in particular for the High Representative.

There are undoubtedly attempts in the Middle East and in particular in Syria for French national protagonists, but the answer to these attempts must be a constant reminder of what President Macron said and the need to conduct all the initiatives in a European context, with a European voice and with European civil and military stabilization tools.


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