Matteo Salvini, the Italian Deputy Prime Minister, of recent disclosed to Chanale 5 TV station, “In Libya, France has no interest in stabilizing the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy.” This was not the first time that Salvini had taken aim at France. In 2018 after a week of fighting claimed 50 people in Tripoli, Salvini said, “My fear is that someone, for economic motives and selfish national interest, is putting the security of North Africa and, as a result, of Europe as a whole. I’m thinking of someone who waged a war that shouldn’t have been waged; someone who set election dates without discussing this with allies, with the United Nations or indeed with the Libyan people.”
Salvini is not even the only Italian politician who has weighed in. Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta also made a similar case: “It is undeniable that this country finds itself in this situation because someone, in 2011, put their own interests first.” For its part, France has dismissed the Italian attacks as baseless populist rhetoric. The attacks may be populist rhetoric but to call them baseless is wildly inaccurate. France was front and center of the move to get rid of Gaddafi and the major aim was to get a greater share of Libyan oil.
With the fractured politics of Libya, different countries have congregated around different leaders. On one side is France, Russia, Egypt, and the UAE which support military-man, Khalifa Haftar while Italy, Qatar, and Turkey support the United Nations-backed Fayez al-Sarraj. France views Haftar as the key to Libya’s Cyrenaica province where it intends to explore. An Italian academic, Michela Mercuri, has argued that the tension between Italy and France “is all because of oil”. Italy’s Eni acquired a controlling stake in BP’s Libyan assets while France’s Total was already a big player. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and supplies “sweet” crude, known for being cheaper and easier to refine.
France has been accused of blindsiding other countries by hosting surprise summits and has even gone as far as pushing for elections yet Libya is clearly not ready. The country is yet to go into a constitutional referendum and France’s excitement is something to be wary of. Foreign Policy says France is hoping to best the distracted Anglophone powers – the USA and Britain. Europe is obviously viewing the current Libyan impasse as an opportunity to score economic points. They created the crisis and they are reaping the roses while Libyans get a harvest of thorns. This is exactly why they killed Gaddafi. It was all a game of economic thrones.