One pebble after another, on a regular basis, for several months, Italian politicians have been throwing around the usual proposal. It’s time to send the ambassador back to Egypt. The last “appeal” was uttered by Nicola Latorre, President of the Defense Committee of the Senate and member of the Democratic Party.
Latorre shared his thoughts on the Regeni case with La Stampa newspaper: “Let’s send our ambassador back to Cairo and accept the Egyptian representative back in Rome. Actually, we should send a wider delegation, due to the critical issues to be addressed.”
So, in Latorre’s opinion, the presence of the ambassador is essential to resolve the question of Giulio Regeni, brutally tortured and killed in Egypt 15 months ago.
Nicola Fratoianni, of the Italian Left, calls it “a terrible gimmick, dictated by ingenuity or by other reasons that escape me, frankly.” Certainly the arrival of Cantini, appointed a year ago, goes against the will of the Regeni family, which has been fighting since February 2016 for Egypt to deliver the truth and for a serious commitment from Rome.
Luigi Manconi, president of the Human Rights Commission of the Senate, explains: “I think the proposal is totally wrong, and I think I can say this is also the opinion of the family. For the last year, I have also shared this opinion. I reiterate that the return of the ambassador could also be a suitable choice, but the real question is: Which other equally effective, significant and important measures will be adopted? For the last year, no other measure was adopted. In the meeting between the prime minister and the family on March 20, Gentiloni said that any decision about the ambassador should be shared by the family.”
A pebble, then another, to normalize relations with the regime in Cairo. Yet there never was a real break. Beyond the recall of the then Ambassador Massari on April 8, 2016, none of the “immediate and proportionate” measures promised by the Foreign Affairs Minister of the time (now the prime minister) has been taken.
Business has escalated. In the past year, Italy hit a record of exports to Egypt: €3.08 billion, compared to 2.9 in 2016 and 2.7 in 2015. Not to mention the energy sector, the tip of the iceberg of business as usual. Two days ago, the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, announced production in Egypt is back on, during the presentation of results of the first quarter 2017.
Egypt is a gold mine, especially after the discovery of the giant Zohr gas field, with its estimated 850 billion cubic meters of gas. On Thursday, Gentiloni himself reiterated the “Eni with Italy” agreement. In North Africa, “a gas diplomacy strategy is being executed,” linked to discoveries by Eni.
Regeni is far, far away from their minds. A year and three months after his body was found in a ditch between Cairo and Alexandria, the prosecutors in Rome, the family and civil organizations are the only ones who continue to insist on the truth.
The Egyptian President al-Sisi feels safe with an equally normalized international community which is silent in the face of the structural repression in Egypt.
Yet this continues unabated. A few days ago, another journalist, Mahmoud Nasr, was arrested for photographing graffiti. On Monday, the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “plotting violent attacks.” That sentence was the result of a second trial; the first, in which he was sentenced to death, was declared a mistrial by the Constitutional Court.
And the president continues to centralize power in his office. The state of emergency was extended to the whole country after Palm Sunday, when ISIS attacks against two Coptic churches left 47 dead. And the new judicial reform (approved during the visit of Pope Francis, in late April) gives el-Sisi the power to appoint the heads of all law enforcement institutions.
He accumulates powers, but he is increasingly unable to manage economic collapse: In April, inflation went up again, reaching 32.9 percent (44.3 percent for food and drinks). The Egyptian people are more miserable and desperate, in the face of a silent world.