In the eastern and central Mediterranean, the importance attached by regional actors to the existence of a defined legal framework for maritime delimitation has recently emerged with reference to two separate but interrelated cases: the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources offshore Cyprus and the stipulation of a “memorandum of understanding” between Turkey and the Libyan Government led by Mr Fayez al-Sarraj and recognized by the United Nations (UN). In both cases, a clear contrast between the position and interests of Turkey, on the one hand, and the claims of a number of other coastal States, on the other, emerged. As will be seen, the Italian Government took a strong stance against the actions of Turkey, in the first case, but it adopted, instead, a position of mild criticism in the second case.Continue reading
Author Archives: Marco Pertile
The Diplomatic Row between Italy and Austria over Vienna’s Draft Laws on Dual Nationality and Consular Assistance for German- and Ladin-speaking South Tyroleans
German-speakers in the Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano – Alto Adige (Autonomous Province Bolzano – South Tyrol, hereinafter “South Tyrol”) constitute 69.6% of the total population of the Province, the rest belonging to the Italian (25.8%) and Ladin (4.5%) ethno-linguistic groups. South Tyrol enjoys a high level of self-government and fiscal autonomy, according to Article 6 of the Italian Constitution, the provisions of the 1946 Accordo De Gasperi – Gruber (De Gasperi – Gruber Agreement) between Italy and Austria, also known as Paris Agreement, and the 1972 second Autonomy Statute for South Tyrol. Under the Paris Agreement, in particular, Austria exercises a protective function for South Tyrol, historically monitoring progress towards the attainment of autonomy by the Province. To this extent, in 1960, Austria submitted the question of the implementation of South Tyrol’s autonomy to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The dispute was settled on 19 June 1992, by means of a discharge issued by both States before the UN, after all the measures that make South Tyrol’s autonomy a unique model of minorities’ protection had been enacted.
Against this background, in 2017, the decision of the Austrian Government to support a reform of its domestic legislation favoring the acquisition of dual citizenship by German and Ladin South-Tyroleans became a significant source of tension between the two neighboring countries. Indeed, the debate on the attribution of the Austrian citizenship to South Tyroleans can be traced back to at least a decade before. Since 2006, the autonomist party Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP – South Tyrolean People’s Party) had lobbied for the attribution of Austrian citizenship to German-speaking South Tyroleans. Already in 2009, a first draft law by the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ – Freedom Party of Austria), although subsequently rejected by the Austrian Parliament, prompted a reaction by the Ministro degli Affari esteri e della Cooperazione internazionale (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Mr Franco Frattini, who, in a diplomatic note transmitted to Vienna, defined the proposal as a “non-friendly gesture towards Italy”. The proposal for a dual citizenship for South-Tyroleans was further discussed following a 2011 motion filed by the Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano (South Tyrol’s Council) and a 2013 citizens’ initiative, for which on 9 April 2014 the Austrian Parliament instituted an ad hoc subcommittee, the Südtirol Unterausschuss (South Tyrol Subcommittee), within the Außenpolitische Ausschuss (Foreign Affairs Committee).Continue reading
The Threatened Demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar “Rubber Tire School” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Khan al-Ahmar community is located in the West Bank, near the road that connects Jerusalem to the city of Jericho and the Dead Sea and not far from the Israeli settlements that rise to the east of the Holy City. Its 180 inhabitants (35 Bedouin families) belong to the tribal group Jahalin, originating from Tel Arad, in southern Israel. Members of this clan were expelled by the Israeli army in 1951 and had to relocate in what was then a territory under the control of Jordan. Nowadays, their lands are formally located within the so-called Area C of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which, under the Oslo Accords, is administered by Israel, and in particular on corridor E1, an area considered strategic for controlling the territory up to Jericho and for the expansion of the settlements. Families are extremely poor and live in temporary structures built without permits from the Israeli authorities, often funded by European countries. Villages are not connected to electricity, roads and the sewage system. They lack health and education infrastructures. Scattered in the area of Khan al-Ahmar live twelve Palestinian communities with roughly 1,400 inhabitants. The so-called “Rubber Tire School”, located in Khan al-Ahmar, serves 150 children from five different communities. The Italian NGO Terra di Vento established it in 2009 with an innovative project using mud and tires. Together with other infrastructures, it was funded by Italy, Belgium and the European Union.
Over the years, the Israeli authorities have confiscated and demolished existing facilities and issued several demolition orders to the detriment of the Bedouin communities of the Jerusalem area. As documented by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, “from 2006 until the end of May 2018, 26 residential structures were demolished. 132 people were left without shelter, of which 77 were children and teenagers. In addition, 7 non-residential structures were demolished”.
Several petitions were filed with the High Court of Justice in favor or against the demolition orders. The Israeli settlers petitioned the Court to have the demolition orders implemented, whereas the Palestinian communities tried to resist deportation. In this respect, the position of the Israeli Government is that the Khan al-Ahmar buildings were established without any permits and that residents have been offered an alternative location where the school would be reconstructed.
On 28 May 2018, the Israeli High Court confirmed that the Government might demolish the homes of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and the school. On 4 July the Israeli civil administration started implementing the expulsion of the residents and the demolition of the buildings, but a subsequent petition to the Court froze the process. With a temporary injunction, the Court invited the parties to reach an agreement. The Government then insisted on the immediate relocation of the Palestinian community to a site in Abu Dis, near a garbage dump. The Palestinian community refused the proposed solution and continued resisting to the expulsion and the destruction of their homes.Continue reading
The Illegal Trafficking in Crude Oil and Petroleum Products from Libya and the Relationship Between Italy and Malta
Control over oil resources has been a key factor in the situation of civil war and political turmoil that has affected Libya in this decade. Already in 2011, a turning point in the struggle against the Qhadafi Government took place when the insurgents of the Transitional National Council proved that, by controlling the eastern ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, they were able to trade in oil with foreign corporations. In the ensuing period, and especially between 2014 and 2018, the competition between rival governments was constantly mirrored by the struggle to gain control over oil resources and, most notably, over the National Oil Corporation (NOC). In 2014, in a paradoxical twist of history, the stability of the revolutionary government that had ousted Qhadafi was seriously put into question when a group of “Petroleum Facilities Guards”, led by a Ibrahim Jadhran, came to control the same eastern ports that had been instrumental to the demise of the previous ruler. A stateless tanker was able to leave port against the will of the Tripoli Government and was subsequently inspected, seized on the high seas, and brought back to port in Libya by an operation of the US Navy. In 2015, the House of Representatives of Tobruk attempted to establish a new National Oil Corporation with headquarters in eastern Libya claiming that the NOC based in Tripoli had no legitimacy and that new contracts had to be negotiated with the eastern NOC. The initiative had little success as the NOC and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli remained the sole official interlocutors of the international corporations operating in Libya. However, the situation of uncertainty with respect to control over the main oil fields of the country persisted. In July 2018, when the Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar took control of the eastern oil fields, attempts to sell oil through the eastern-based oil corporation started again, allegedly with the assistance of the United Arab Emirates. This prompted a reaction by the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, which is commented upon here below.
Repeated attempts to illicitly export oil from Libya were condemned by the UN Security Council, which clearly supported the position of the GNA. With Resolution 2146 (2014) the Council requested that the GNA contact the Sanctions Committee previously established by Resolution 1970 (2011) “to inform the Committee of any vessels transporting crude oil illicitly exported from Libya”. The Resolution then authorized Member States, after seeking consent by the vessel’s flag State, “to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances […] to […] direct the vessel to take appropriate actions to return the crude oil, with the consent of and in coordination with the Government of Libya, to Libya”. Moreover, it was made clear that all Member States were under an obligation to “take the necessary measures to require their nationals and entities and individuals in their territory not to engage in any financial transactions with respect to such crude oil from Libya aboard vessels designated by the Committee”. Subsequently, Resolution 2174 (2014) expanded the reasons for listing individuals and entities in the sanctions lists mentioning explicitly those “providing support for armed groups or criminal networks through the illicit exploitation of crude oil or any other natural resources in Libya”. Resolution 2362 (2017) expanded the applicability of the measures adopted with Resolution 2146 (2014) to petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products. In a number of resolutions, the Security Council reiterated that the resources of Libya must remain under the sole control and authority of the GNA and the NOC of Tripoli.
Within this context, the position of the Italian Government has consistently supported the GNA by affirming clearly that the right to control and administer the oil resources of the country pertained exclusively to the NOC. During the course of 2018, Italy participated in the adoption of two joint statements (together with France, the United Kingdom and the United States) dealing directly with the issue of control over Libyan oil resources.Continue reading
Italy’s Reaction to the Use of Chemical Weapons at Khan Shaykhun and to the US Attack on a Syrian Airfield
On 4 April 2017, it was reported that the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun – controlled at the time by the Tahrir Al-Sham Alliance – had been the object of an airstrike by the air force of the Government of President Bashar Al Assad. As a result of the airstrike, chemical agents poisoned large numbers of civilians.
In a report released on 30 June 2017, the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) estimated the number of deaths “as approximately 100 people” and determined that “Sarin or a Sarin-like substance” had been used as a weapon in Khan Shaykhun. It took until 27 October 2017 for the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to take position on the responsibility for the attack and affirm that the Leading Panel of the mechanism itself was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.
In the aftermath of the attack, however, several countries condemned the action and the United States (US), the United Kingdom and France openly called into question the responsibility of the Syrian Government. The US President, Mr. Donald Trump, condemned the attack as “intolerable” and openly blamed the inaction of his predecessor Barack Obama, who, after establishing “a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons did nothing”. On its part, the Syrian government denied any involvement in the use of chemical weapons. The Government of the Russian Federation offered alternative explanations of the events, mentioning the fact that the Syrian Air Force could have “bombed an underground factory producing chemical warfare agents” or alluding to a possible “provocation by the terrorists”. Within the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a draft resolution condemning the attack – tabled by France, the United Kingdom and the US – was vetoed by the Russian Federation, with the abstention of China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.Continue reading
A Statement at the Human Rights Council on Behalf of the EU on the Situation in the Gaza Strip
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, 21st SPECIAL SESSION, HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, INCLUDING EAST JERUSALEM, 23 JULY 2014.
On 23 July 2014, the Permanent Representative of Italy at the Human Rights Council, Amb. Maurizio Enrico Serra, expressed the position of the EU with respect to the Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The statement took place in the context of a debate on Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which has started on 7 July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, and on the escalation of rocket fire against Israel. At the outset, Amb. Serra specified that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein aligned themselves with his statement.
He then stated:
The Position of the Uniting for Consensus Group on the Tenth Round of Negotiations on Security Council Reform – Amb. Cardi
TENTH ROUND OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL NEGOTIATIONS ON THE QUESTION OF EQUITABLE REPRESENTATION ON AND INCREASE IN THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND OTHER MATTERS RELATED TO THE COUNCIL, 12 DECEMBER 2013.
On 12 December 2013, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations made the following statement on behalf of the “Uniting for Consensus” (UfC) Group:
A Statement by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, on the Datagate
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 122nd MEETING, 20 DECEMBER 2013.
On 20 November 2013, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, gave an urgent report before the Chamber of Deputies on the so-called Datagate, the scandal initiated by the declarations of Edward Snowden. Mr Letta described how the US National Security Agency (NSA) could monitor the flow of metadata of Internet communications at a global level (PRISM Programme). Another surveillance programme (Tempora) would have been established by the British intelligence to monitor communications in submarine fibre-optic cables. In light of this background, he stated:
The Debate in the Sixth Committee on the Obligation to Extradite or Prosecute (Aut Dedere Aut Judicare)
UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10), 4 NOVEMBER 2013.
On 4 November 2013, during the debate in the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on the Report of the International Law Commission, the Italian delegate, Mr Mauro Politi, submitted the comments of his delegation on the work conducted by the ILC on the “Obligation to Extradite or Prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare)”. He stated:
The Debate in the Sixth Committee on the Protection of the Environment during Armed Conflicts
UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10).
On 4 November 2013, during the debate in the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on the Report of the International Law, the Italian delegate, Mr. Mauro Politi, submitted the comments of his delegation on the topic of “Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflicts”. Mr. Politi noted that the Report of the ILC indicated that “an informal dialogue” had taken place between the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Marie Jacobsson, and the members of the Commission on elements such as scope and methodology, the general direction and the timetable for future work. In this respect, he observed what follows: