CAIRO (Reuters) – Italy’s Foreign Minister said on Sunday his country saw Egypt as an important partner in stemming irregular migration across the Mediterranean and in bolstering its energy security.
Though Egypt has largely prevented departures of migrant boats from its own north coast since 2016, the number of Egyptian nationals crossing to Europe via Libya has risen sharply.
In 2022, 20,542 Egyptians disembarked in Italy, up from 1,264 in 2020 and the largest group by nationality, according to data published by Italy’s interior ministry.
As part of efforts to tackle irregular migration, Italy was “ready to have more legal migrants, including those coming from Egypt”, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said during a trip to Cairo.
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He mentioned pilot projects to give migrants grants to study and train in Italy, though he did not give any numbers at a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart.
Tajani also called for a resolution of Libya’s crisis that would lead to elections and a new constitution.
“The solution to the Libyan problem is also part of the solution of the illegal immigration problem,” said Tajani.
Both Egypt and Italy have been deeply engaged in Libya, where migrant smugglers have found space to flourish amid conflict and political stalemate.
Italy and Europe were also looking to North Africa to meet their energy needs in the wake of the war in Ukraine, Tajani said.
Italy’s Eni has a strong presence in Egyptian gas production. Tajani said Italy was working to strike more agreements with producer countries.
“I believe Egypt should become one of Italy’s big partners in the Mediterranean. Italy aspires to be a big European energy hub and on this point there can be convergence with Egypt,” he said.
The cases of Giulio Regeni, an Italian student found dead in Egypt in 2016, and Patrick Zaki, an Egyptian who was studying in Italy and is on trial under charges of spreading false news, were also addressed in talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, said Tajani.
“The problem was raised by the president, who told me it was the intention of Egypt to resolve the problems, and remove all the obstacles,” he said.
A statement by Sisi’s office made no mention of the cases.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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