Italian government faces domestic questions over relationship with Egypt

Italian government faces domestic questions over relationship with Egypt

Italy’s government will brief the foreign affairs committee today on having sent a new ambassador to Cairo. Rome recalled its

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Photo: Angelo Carconi/EPA

Italy’s government will brief the foreign affairs committee today on having sent a new ambassador to Cairo. Rome recalled its previous envoy in April 2016 following the torture and murder of student Giulio Regeni in Egypt amid suspicions Cairo was culpable.

The decision has sparked outrage, especially following reports that the Obama administration gave former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi “explosive intelligence” proving Egyptian security forces were behind the murder. Regeni’s parents called it “a surrender” while a populist MP accused the government of a cover-up. For its part, Rome claims Washington provided no solid evidence.

Rome has a strong economic interest in good ties with its cross-Mediterranean neighbour. Italian oil giant Eni drills for natural gas off Egypt’s coast from a trove worth $6.4 billion to the firm. Such economic motives could feed populist critiques that the government puts profits before people.

With the incumbent Democratic Party facing an uphill battle in next year’s general election, the controversy could further sink its popularity and lower the chances of Mr Renzi, the Democratic leader, making a successful comeback. Though Egyptian relations may warm, Cairo could be dealing with a new government before long.