Italy’s trading ties with Libya make it the most exposed European Union country to any collapse in Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.
The CHART OF THE DAY shows that Italy bought 49 percent of Libya’s exports to the 27-nation EU in 2009 and was responsible for 39 percent of the bloc’s sales to the North African country, according to Eurostat, the EU’s Luxembourg-based statistics office. Germany bought 14 percent of Libyan exports.
Italy’s ties with Libya, which it occupied from 1911 to 1943, have strengthened under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In 2008, it forged a treaty that paved the way for 25 billion euros ($34 billion) in Eni SpA oil projects in Libya. Investment links also go the other way, with Libyan stakes in UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest bank, totalling 7.6 percent.
“Italy is first in the firing line,” said James Walston, who teaches politics at the American University in Rome. “His friend seems to be in trouble, but Berlusconi does not want to ‘bother’ Qaddafi.”
Libya, holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, is the latest country in the region to be rocked by protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and spurred by the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. One of Qaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, warned on Feb. 20 of the risk of civil war.