by Fabrizio Verde (Italy)
The Mediterranean has become a focal point in the international geopolitical and geo-economic scenario. The Mediterranean Sea is central for international trade. The foreign trade of some of the largest economies in the world (from China to the US, as well as Germany, Italy, and France) with the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean has been growing steadily for 15 years. In the last 20 years, the economies of the MENA area countries (Middle East and North Africa) have had an average growth in GDP of + 4.4% per year against an EU average of less than half (+ 1.9%), as indicates the newspaper specialized in economic issues ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’.
The unprecedented ascendancy of the People’s Republic of China is in part a result of this increase in trade. The Asian giant is preparing to overtake the United States as the world’s leading economic power in a few years. Beijing’s trade in the Mediterranean area in the last 15 years has had a monstrous increase: about 841%. A large chunk of this trade passed through the Suez Canal. Central location for Chinese strategies based on the strategic initiative of the New Silk Road. The Mediterranean has become a key hub for China to reach the European market and the MENA area, which together represent the largest GDP and trade area in the world. And let us not forget that the Mediterranean is fundamental as a gateway to Africa, a continent with serious growth potential and resources.
Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
Understanding this helps us to better grasp why geopolitical tensions have exploded in the eastern Mediterranean. The ongoing geopolitical disputes in the eastern Mediterranean see Turkey and Greece – with Athens backed by France, US, Cyprus and Israel – dueling over contested exclusive economic zones and the related natural resources present in the seabed of this quadrant of the Mediterranean Sea. Greece’s goal is to confine Turkey to the Anatolian shore by blocking its naval projection. Ankara, following the strategy of the ‘Blue Homeland’ (Mavi Vatan), intends to grant its sea space the same sovereignty exercised over the Anatolian territory.
But there is more. As explained by the president of Vatan Partisi Doğu Perinçek in an article that appeared in July 2020 in the Italian geopolitical magazine Limes: “In the eastern Mediterranean, the threats to the Blue Homeland (Mavi Vatan) originate from the maneuvers of the US and Israel, which have targeted Turkey and provoke it by carrying out military exercises with Greece and the Greek government of Southern Cyprus. The hostile nature of these war games already emerges from their names, ‘Noble Dina’ and ‘Nemesis’. References to myths from the Torah and Greek mythology which both have revenge as their theme. There are countries that intend to make us pay for it. They know that they will pay dearly for it. In this context, it was inevitable that Turkey would find an understanding with Russia and Iran in the eastern Mediterranean. And it is equally natural that you look to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia and Algeria as potential regional allies.”
Italy-Turkey: where do things stand?
Due to its geographical position, Italy represents the natural platform for connecting the Asia – Suez – Mediterranean sea routes with continental Europe. It can best play this role by recovering its historic role as stabilizing power, rather than subordinating itself to imperialism. When the USA, France and the United Kingdom bombed Libya and assassinated President Gaddafi, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was not even informed that this was going to take place and was unable to oppose it despite the fact that the destabilization was strongly contrary to Rome’s interests. In Libya, the parallel moves of Italy and Turkey supported the diplomatic, military and economic spheres of the UN recognized government of national agreement led by Fayez al-Sarraj. Their intervention has altered the fate of the conflict. Cooperation during the conflict in Libya, a country Italy and Turkey fought against in 1911, was a decisive moment in the Italian-Turkish rapprochement. But the renewed bilateral relations between the two countries were sealed during the worst days of the pandemic. Italy was one of the first countries in the world hit hardest by the new coronavirus, and Turkey did not hesitate to send precious medical aid to Rome, something which did not go unnoticed. This aid came when alleged NATO allies moved a field hospital from Italy to Luxembourg, when Germany banned exports of medical supplies, and when the United States bought all the production of diagnostic tests that were in short supply from an Italian company. The only and fundamental aid came from Eurasian powers such as China, Russia and Turkey (and of course, the Cuban medical brigades).
Italy and Turkey are two maritime and Mediterranean powers. They have a balanced bilateral trade worth about $ 20 billion. Italy is Turkey’s fifth trading partner and the second largest in the European Union after Germany. Rome and Ankara have common geopolitical priorities in the Mediterranean.
The Northern Cyprus question
As relations between Italy and Turkey improve, France has been trying to wedge itself into the eastern Mediterranean through Syria and Cyprus. This strategy was initiated by Sarkozy but carried out in a decidedly unscrupulous way by Emmanuel Macron. Recently, Paris has decided to deploy its Rafale fighters in Cyprus, openly provoking Turkey. In fact, Cyprus can be compared to an aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Anatolia.
In Perinçek’s article, the Turkish political leader illustrates the regional strategic vision of the Vatan Party, here articulated in ten points, the second of which is the recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A determined Italian government with a clear strategic vision would strongly benefit from the recognition of Northern Cyprus, a move capable of turning the tables and displacing those who, like France, seek to enter the eastern Mediterranean. This move could also disrupt the imperialist plans of the US and Israel for the region.
What is preventing Italy from recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus? As Perinçek explains: “In Cyprus, not even donkeys are Cypriots. The Greeks and Turks of the island belong to different nations and because of what happened in the past they have no intention of living together. They have already irreversibly decided that there can be no common future”. Continuing to hold Northern Cyprus in a position of diplomatic and economic isolation fails to take into account the willingness of Greeks and Greek Cypriots to push the ethnic balance of the island to the breaking point. It must be remembered that it was the Greek fascist coup in ’74 that provoked Turkey’s military intervention. This action was taken within the framework of the prerogatives assigned to Ankara by the “Treaty of guarantee” (art. 14).
The Turkish Cypriot state exists with full political sovereignty and independence. Italy needs to make a bold move and recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
A step towards Eurasia
The US-led unipolar order with European vassals is in an irreversible decline. By supporting Turkey’s Mediterranean policies, Italy would be able to achieve two objectives: breaking the US-EU-NATO cage to start a gradual move away from the Western camp and at the same time draw closer to the nascent Eurasian-led multipolar order. In this regard, we cannot but hope for what Perinçek affirms: “The friendship that today links Turkey, Iran, Russia and China does not only concern these countries. Because the unification and rise of Asia is undermining American hegemony and is the factor that more than any other is causing the collapse of the dollar sultanate. It is a process that can guarantee independence, prosperity, security and peace also to the peoples of other continents. Including the descendants of Niccolò Machiavelli, the great revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi – who organized the union of Italian workers in Istanbul – and Antonio Gramsci. It is an opportunity not to be missed. The goal is within reach”.