Libya and the Franco-Italian rivalry

A map of Libya and neighboring countries
Both Italy and France officially support the UN-backed government in Tripoli, but Paris has aided the Tobruk-based government for its stance on terrorism (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • Paris and Rome have long tussled over North Africa
  • They share a desire to curb migration, fight terrorism and secure the oil industry
  • Today, Franco-Italian competition is especially evident in Libya
  • The strained relations are an obstacle to their cooperation on these issues

France and Italy are at loggerheads over several geopolitical developments in Africa, none more important than the struggle for influence in Libya. Paris and Rome have very different ideas about how the political process in the country should move forward. High-profile politicians have slung recriminations, and the two countries have held competing summits to discuss Libya’s future.

The dynamics are complex, for reasons involving international clout, economics and oil. But to really understand the competition in North Africa between France and Italy, we need to take a step back and look at the region’s history, starting with European colonialism.

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