Italian PM visits Cuba in a historic first

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived in Cuba on Wednesday for the first-ever visit by an Italian head of government, seeking a trade foothold as the communist island renews ties with the US and Europe.

Italian PM visits Cuba in a historic first
Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, became the first ever Italian head of government to visit Cuba on Wednesday. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Renzi, who is traveling with a large delegation of business executives and investors, will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and seek to boost Italy's presence in the tourism, restaurant, construction, recycling and renewable energy sectors, Italian press reports said.

Cuba, which depends heavily on oil imports, is looking to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix from 4.3 percent to 24 percent by 2030.

And Italy, which is in the midst of a renewable energy boom, thanks largely to generous state subsidies, is keen to strike partnerships in the sector.

Italy is currently Cuba's eighth-largest trade partner and Cuba is an increasingly popular destination for Italian tourists: arrivals are up 34 percent so far this year, to 77,000 – the fifth-highest number of any country.
European nations have shown a keen interest in deepening ties with Cuba as the United States continues negotiations on normalizing ties with the island after more than five decades of Cold War hostility.
French President Francois Hollande visited Cuba in May, and the Netherlands and Spain have called for the European Union to speed up parallel negotiations to restore relations suspended in 2003 over a Cuban crackdown on journalists and activists.

The visit is Renzi's final stop on a Latin American tour that also took him to Chile, Peru and Colombia.

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Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Meloni’s trip — her second to a North African country this week — is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.