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POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived on Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration
Libya's Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah receives Giorgia Meloni in Tripoli on January 28, 2023. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Meloni’s trip – her second to a North African country this week – is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.

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EU

Socialists target far right in EU vote campaign launch

Europe's Socialists launched their campaign for June's European Parliament elections in Rome on Saturday with a focus on warding off "ghosts from the past" from an ascendant far right.

Socialists target far right in EU vote campaign launch

Left-wing MEPs, national lawmakers, party chiefs, EU commissioners and heads of government gathered at their congress before a European vote seen as the most important in decades.

Ukraine is struggling to fend off Russian troops two years after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion and surging support for “illiberal” right-wing groups is predicted.

“The very soul of Europe is at risk,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the delegates.

“The ghosts of the past are again at the gates of our institutions: hate, greed, falsehood, climate denialism, authoritarianism,” he added, warning of their “digital weapons” and “powerful allies” inside and outside Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hit out at “right-wing populists running election campaigns against our united Europe and its core values” who are on the rise in democracies worldwide.

Raphael Glucksmann, the head of the French Socialist list, called the voteĀ “the most important European elections in history” as Putin’s war “hammers” the continent.

The prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House after the US presidential election in November may mean “we will have to stay alone, alone in front of war”, he warned.

Sanchez met Scholz before the congress to discuss the war in Ukraine, which he said was “entering a delicate phase”.

“We must show our commitment and determination. The security and freedom of Europeans are at stake,” the Spanish premier wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Farmer angerĀ 

The Party of European Socialists is the second-largest force in the European Parliament behind the conservative European People’s Party.

Three months from the elections, the two groups are gearing up for campaigning against a surging far right that could surf on a wave of discontent, notably from the agricultural sector, and make major gains.

French Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure said he feared the far right would harvest votes from angry farmers by claiming environmental and agricultural interests were at odds.

“We must constantly remember that the enemy of agriculture is not ecology, it’s liberalism,” he said, calling on European Socialists to offer hope to counter the far right’s message.

Veteran Dutch politician Frans Timmermans charged that the centre right “believes there is a future for them in aligning themselves with the extreme right”.

The Socialists also designated Luxembourg’s Nicolas Schmit as their candidate for European Commission president against incumbent Ursula von der Leyen, who is expected to run again for the job.

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