Friday

22nd Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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.

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us