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Italy-Libya Business Forum: Growth opportunities and support for transition, says Terzi

Libya’s democratic transition “has reached a decisive stage and Italy is intensifying its broad range of actions to support the country on the path to democracy and economic recovery. With the fullest respect for its independence”. These were the words of Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi as he opened the second Italy-Libya Economic Forum at the Farnesina yesterday, 10 January 2013. The event was co-chaired by Libya’s acting head of state, Mohammed el-Magariaf. Public intervention, added Terzi, “is not enough in itself. Private sector investment is needed too, and that is the spirit inspiring today’s meeting”. The Forum was attended by about 70 representatives of Italian businesses already present, or interested in investing, in Libya.

Leading trade partner

With trade amounting to 4.58 billion euros in 2011, Italy is the new, post-Ghaddafi Libya’s leading commercial partner. In the first few months of 2012, our exports to Tripoli grew by 305%, while Libya’s to Rome rose by 211%. Italian entrepreneurs are looking to Libya for new markets and investments, but, as Terzi reminded the Forum, the question of physical and judicial security still weighs on the country.

On this point, el-Magariaf assured the audience that “security is one of our top concerns and we have begun to tackle it with the help of the Italian Republic”. He underscored the help offered by Italy on training the security forces and armed forces, and on the social integration of those who fought in the rebel militias. He added that “Libya is also speaking to its neighbours about common efforts to combat the trafficking of weapons, munitions, drugs and illegal migrants, with the help of the EU and the countries of the region”.

Italy’s importance to the new Libya

El-Magariaf also expressed “the Libyan people’s gratitude” for Italy’s support for the revolution. The high level of the Libyan delegation at the Farnesina, with six members of the government, and Prime Minister Zeidan’s planned visit to Rome on 30 January, “are further evidence of Italy’s importance to the new Libya”, continued el-Magariaf.

Yesterday’s Forum follows the one held in Milan on 29 November 2012. Its importance was underscored by the Secretary General of the Farnesina, Michele Valensise, who pointed out that the visit was the first by a democratically elected Libyan leader to a European Union country. On this topic, Italy intends to act as a channel between Tripoli’s aspirations and European expectations.

Past debts

The Forum also saw important progress on Libya’s past debts to Italian companies, dating from the period of the embargo against Tripoli and on which no definitive agreement was ever reached under Ghaddafi. Libya has submitted a proposal on this subject, which will be discussed at the technical level and could be resolved by the end of January 2013.

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