Friday

1st Mar 2024

France and Italy quarrel over shipyard and Libya

  • French president Macron (l) tried to "dissipate any wrong interpretation" with Italian PM Gentiloni (r). (Photo: elysee.fr)

French president Emmanuel Macron called Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday evening (27 July) to defuse tensions amid accusations of "colonialism" in Libya and economic "protectionism".

The call was "friendly", Gentiloni's office said, hours after his government had stated that a French decision to nationalise a shipyard was "serious and incomprehensible".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The French government decided on Thursday to "temporarily" take control of the STX shipyards, in Saint-Nazaire, western France, in order to block a takeover by Italian state-owned company Fincantieri, which was due to take effect on Saturday.

Macron rejected an agreement reached under his predecessor, Francois Hollande, that would have seen Fincantieri becoming the owner of 54 percent of STX's capital. He wanted the French state to own at least 50 percent, something Italy refused.

The STX shipyard, which is currently Marjory-owned by a South Korean company, builds cruise ships, but is also able to build warships.

Critics of the Italian deal pointed to Fincantieri's links with China and risks that sensitive French know-how and technology could end up in Chinese hands.

"We want to have all the guarantees that this know-how will not one day go to another big global economic power, a non-European one, to be precise," French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.

"This lack of trust in Italian partners is unacceptable," the Italian finance minister told French daily Les Echos.

But Macron, in his call to Gentiloni, tried to "dissipate any wrong interpretation" of his decision to preempt the shipyard, according to his office.

He said that the nationalisation was a "transitory decision during which talks continue in order to find an agreement … which would leave a large place for Fincantieri."

The spat over STX comes as France and Italy are also at loggerheads over the situation in Libya and how to manage the migration crisis.

On Tuesday, Macron hosted a meeting in Paris between the two main Libyan political leaders, Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar.

The two rivals agreed to a ceasefire and to elections next year, but Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano told La Stampa newspaper that "there are too many open formats in Libya, too many mediators, too many initiatives.”

'Improvised lines'

Italy, a former colonial power in Libya, has been very active in trying to end the war in the country, and Macron's initiative was considered by the Italian media as a "slap in the face".

And on Thursday, while the French government was announcing STX's nationalisation, Macron reportedly said that he was going to create "hotspots" to process migrants in Libya.

"France can't move forward with improvised lines," Alfano said, before Macron's office denied the reports and insisted that he only wanted to treat asylum requests as closely as possible to the migrants' countries of origin.

Alfano then said he "welcomed" the clarification.

Italy, which has received some 95,000 migrants so far this year, mainly from Libya, has been calling for its EU partners' solidarity.

Last month, it asked other EU countries to open their ports to migrants too, but French interior minister Gerard Collomb said this would create a magnet effect and insisted on "stemming the flow beforehand".

Italy's 'nuclear option' on migrants unravels

Media has reported that Italy may issue visas to migrants to allow them to travel further north. But the plan is unlikely to work due to EU rules underpinning such decisions.

EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds

The European Commission has legally paved the way for Poland to access up to €137bn EU funds, following Donald Tusk's government's efforts to strengthen the independence of their judiciary and restore the rule of law in the country.

Latest News

  1. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  2. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  3. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  4. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  5. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  6. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  7. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  8. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us