France & Italy Juggling Agendas: Europe Divided Over Its North Africa Strategy

Written by | Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

European strategic interests are increasingly at stake as the most recent developments in North Africa, from Mauritania to Libya, are of great interests to many stakeholders in Europe. While Libya is a central focus, the entire coast of North Africa as well as the hinterlands of Sahara are a concern for many across the bloc, with many divergent interests.

France is strategically interested in the security area, from migration to energy. With that, the Maghreb and the Sahel fall within its current scope and the country is also active in Libya, Niger and Mali. Paris is also reportedly interested in greater stability in Chad where France’s major interests lie while Algeria and Sudan are also in focus. Italy, in contrast, is mostly preoccupied by Libya and it is arguing with France over the objectives involving migration and energy since the two EU members ultimately share the same concerns. Both France’s Total and Italy’s Eni have major investments and infrastructure throughout the region.

However, relations between both countries have grown colder since the far-right parties took hold in both cases. Each country accuses the other one of doing “nothing” to manage the migrants. Therefore, France and Italy are balancing their interests to gauge what would work best for their respective security interests instead of waiting for a common European position especially given the fact that both have been dealing with the repercussions of the developments in North Africa for decades. Beyond France and Italy, the UK is also player in North Africa but with Brexit looming large on the horizon, the country’s focus has been domestic except for a few key areas.

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