Seventeen months have passed since the discovery of Giulio Regeni’s lifeless and tortured body.
On Feb. 3, 2016, nine days after his disappearance from Cairo, the corpse of the young Italian researcher was found in a ditch along the road that goes from the Egyptian capital to Alexandria.
Seventeen months without truth nor justice, despite the continued efforts of the prosecutors in Rome, the Egyptian authorities have scarcely cooperated and have made several cover-up attempts.
The al-Sisi regime did not feel under pressure. After recalling Ambassador Massari to Italy in April 2016 and stopping the supply of spare parts for the Egyptian fighter planes, the Italian government has done nothing. And that is either because of its diplomatic isolation within Europe, or because of the economic interests that tie it to Egypt.
The increasing numbers speak of those bilateral relations that were never endangered, if not in the words thrown out there, to feed a public opinion outraged by the murder. That public opinion who, even today, still fights for the truth.
The first quarter of 2017 closed with a 30 percent increase of the commercial trade between Italy and Egypt: almost €400 million more, from one billion in the first quarter of 2016 to the current billion and 300 million. This was announced last week by the Egyptian Foreign Trade Minister Tarek Qabil.
In total, the volume of trade between the two countries goes above five billion a year and this new acceleration could mean that the current year will close with a further increase.
“Italy is one of Egypt’s most important trading partners in the European Union. The non-oil exports increased by 30 percent, from €264 million to €367 million in the corresponding period of 2016,” the minister said.
A deeply rooted business: there are over 130 active Italian companies in the North African country, from Intesa San Paolo to Italcementi, from Pirelli to Ansaldo, which make Rome the top Egyptian trade partner in Europe.
The lion’s share, however, is definitely the energy business that Qabil did not include in his latest report. Eni and Edison are on the pedestal, the two Italian giants that have invested billions in Cairo for oil and gas basin fields.
Eni’s six-legged dog is in the country since 1954. During these decades, it has rooted its presence and has become the first oil producer in Egypt, with a production of 230 thousand barrels per day over an area of 23 thousand square kilometers. But it was the discovery of the immense Zohr undersea basin that changed the entire energy map of the Mediterranean Sea.
This basin has a potential of 850 billion cubic meters of gas, of which the extraction could begin in October, according to sources quoted by the agency Agenzia Nova, just after Eni’s acquisition of Early Production Facility of the US company Schlumberger and after the completion of the marine platform for the “super” oilfield in early June, four months ahead of schedule.
A similar story, but on a smaller scale, for Edison, responsible for 100 percent of the Abu Qir oilfield in the Nile Delta, 60 percent of West Waidi El Rayan and 20 percent of Rosetta. So, the news printed on Messaggero a few days ago, did not raise any eyebrows: in Viterbo, among the audience of the Caffeina festival, there were two “special” spectators, Italian Ambassador Giampaolo Cantini and Egyptian Ambassador Ayman Thawat.
None of the two have officially entered their respective embassies in Cairo and Rome, since political relations have not been restored. And every day, it seems like smoke and mirrors more and more.