During 2016, the Italian Government was often questioned before the Parliament about arms exports from Italy to countries where either a conflict was occurring or international norms were being violated. The statements by the different members of the Government highlighted a heterogeneous practice, contingent upon different variables, some of which related to the presence of international measures and others to political considerations of the Government itself.
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 699th MEETING, 26 OCTOBER 2016.
On 26 October 2016, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, answered three parliamentary questions regarding the abstention of Italy on Decision 200 EX/25 on Occupied Palestine approved by the UNESCO Executive Board on 13 October 2016. The decision was adopted with 24 votes in favour, 6 against, and 26 abstentions. The text of the decision regrets ‘the Israeli refusal to implement previous UNESCO decisions concerning Jerusalem’ and deplores ‘the failure of Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City’. In section 25.1.A, the decision makes reference to several issues related to the ‘Al Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif’ condemning, inter alia, ‘escalating Israeli aggressions […] against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their holy site’, as well as deploring ‘the continuous storming’ of the mosque ‘by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces’. In doing so, the resolution does not make reference to the Jewish ‘Temple Mount’. Mr Gentiloni started by illustrating the Italian position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more generally:
Throughout 2016, the Italian Government was called upon on several occasions to express its position on the negotiation and approval of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU (CETA). In May 2016, the Government – in contrast with the wide majority of the other EU Member States – announced its willingness to consider CETA as a “EU only agreement”, falling within the sole competence of the EU as part of its commercial policy. On the contrary, in July 2016 the EU Commission decided to qualify CETA as a “mixed agreement”, subject to the approval of each of the national parliaments of the EU Member States. The Government’s view on the matter was expressed in particular on the following occasions:
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 667th MEETING, 3 AUGUST 2016.
On 3 August 2016, the Minister of Defence, Ms. Roberta Pinotti, answering a parliamentary question on the alleged involvement of Italy in the US air operations against ISIS in Libya, stated:
In the course of 2016, the controversy of Italy with India, widely known as the Enrica Lexie case, was an important subject of discussion and debate in the Parliament. The events triggering the dispute date back to 15 February 2012, when two Indian fishermen were killed off the western coast of India, after a shooting incident involving Italian marines on-board the Italian-flagged oil tanker Enrica Lexie.
The subsequent arrest by Indian authorities of two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, sparked a controversy between the two countries; after unsuccessful attempts to settle the case through diplomatic means, on 26 June 2015 Italy decided to submit the dispute to international arbitration pursuant to Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Additionally, Italy sought provisional measures before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ordered the suspension of all court proceedings against the two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, pending a decision on the issue of jurisdiction by the Arbitral Tribunal (The “Enrica Lexie” Incident (Italy v. India), Provisional Measures, ITLOS, Order of 24 August 2015). On 13 January 2016, the Indian Supreme Court was convened to discuss the situation of one of the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre, who had been allowed to repatriate to Italy for medical reasons.
The initiatives adopted by Italy in the case, including the position expressed before the Indian Supreme Court, were illustrated by members of the Government in particular in the two occasions detailed below:
On 13 January 2016 the French authorities arrested the Italian fishing vessel Mina with the accusation of violating French territorial waters. The Mina was arrested during fishery of the red shrimp off the Ligurian coast, between Ventimiglia and the Mentone bay, before the Balzi Rossi reef, and was released upon payment of an 8300-euro deposit. Subsequently, the French authorities expressed regret for the arrest, conceding that it ensued from a wrongful determination of the boundary and jurisdiction over the area. The case spotlighted the on-going discussion between Italy and France over the determination of their maritime boundaries and corresponding fishing rights in an area off Liguria and North of Sardinia, pending the ratification of the so-called Caen Agreement. To date, Italy’s and France’s jurisdiction and fishing rights in the respective areas have been regulated de facto by the 1986 Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement and the 1892 Convention on the fishing zone in the Mentone Bay. More specifically, the 1892 Mentone Bay Convention has never entered into force and was negotiated as a modus vivendi providing for a cooperative ground between the countries, whilst leaving their positions legally unprejudiced. As to the Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement, it only determines French and Italian territorial waters in the Strait of Bonifacio. Though regulating the fisheries traditions and practices of French and Italian fishing vessels in a common zone West of the Strait, the Agreement fails to comprehensively establish the Parties’ maritime boundaries and fishing rights. The Caen Agreement, when in force, would thus constitute the first bilateral instrument to effectively determine the maritime boundaries between the two countries and serve as a basis to settle possible disputes.
In the last quarter of 2015 the Government reported twice before the Chamber of Deputies on its arms sales policy to certain Middle East countries allegedly involved in illicit arms trafficking with ISIL/Daesh. The Government also explained which measures and actions Italy has undertaken in the fight against ISIL and foreign terrorist fighters. The most salient points from the two speeches follow: