Birth cries of an EU army in Africa?

Cinzia Bianco

ROME - The Italian Insider spoke to Cinzia Bianco, senior researcher at the Euro Gulf Information Centre (EGIC) about the motivation and possible consequences of increasing the Italian military presence Libya, Niger, and Tunisia. To read more about the background of the situation, please click here

Could you comment on Italy’s plans to put more troops in Libya 
and Tunisia?

 I believe that the rationale behind this move is not that divergent from 
the move in Niger. Italy is following the lead of other European 
countries in acquiring a small degree of greater reactivity in the 
operations that are crucial in the stabilization of the EU neighbourhood. 
In particular, these interventions are also clearly designed to stem 
down the flow of migrants aiming to reach Europe via Italy. The issue of 
immigration has been a long-standing question of Italian domestic 
politics. In the past few years it has become more prominent as coupled 
with the economic crisis and the refugee crisis. With elections 
forthcoming in March 2018, the incumbent government has an even 
additional reason to step up its policy to manage the question.

How much do you think Italy's current military plans in the region are 
motivated by political gain, both domestically and on a European level?

 For the most part, the plans are motivated by domestic politics, i.e. 
the incumbent government getting to elections with a track record of 
positive, though small, achievements in stabilizing migration flows and 
instability in the southern neighbourhood.

 Do you think troops in Niger will result in increased terrorist 
activity in Italy as France suffered several attacks after the French government put 
troops in the region?

 Not really. Italy's history in the region is very different from 
France's, and also the numbers and overall situation of residents at 
risk of radicalization.

Do you think that the plans are effective or do you think that human 
traffickers will find alternative routes to northern Libya through Chad 
or Sudan?

 While it is very conceivable that traffickers will find alternative 
routes; that takes time as does re-arranging the traffic. The operation 
could buy Italy (and Europe) some time to find a more appropriate 
long-term solution.

Do you think the joint efforts with the likes of the French and German 
military shows a desire to stabilize the EU community through 
specifically military action in a way that points to the possibility of 
an EU army?

 Since a few months, the project of an EU army seems to be very concrete 
in the minds and strategies of many policy-makers around Europe so yes, 
indeed, these joint efforts are particularly significant at this time.