‘The Regeni amendment:’ Italian’s murder in Egypt impacts military ties

In this file photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior on Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016, personal belongings of slain Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, including his passport, are displayed. (Reuters)

Italy’s parliament has decided to freeze the supply of spare parts for F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, triggering an immediate reaction from Cairo. This is considered the first move with a direct impact on bilateral commercial relations taken by Rome after the killing in Cairo of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni.

“It’s the first time parliament has the chance with this initiative to show the urge to accelerate the search for the truth on Regeni’s case… with no intention of compromising relations with Egypt,” said Italian Senator Nicola Latorre, president of the defense commission.

The Senate on Wednesday approved the “Regeni amendment” regarding military supplies with 159 votes in favor, 55 votes against and 17 abstentions. Parliament now awaits final approval from the Chamber of Deputies.

"Egypt will monitor developments in this regard to make the right decision with respect to the manner in which Egyptian/Italian relations are managed," said Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, adding that the Italian move is not consistent with the level of cooperation that has existed between investigative authorities in both countries since the beginning of Regeni’s case.

The Italian Senate’s decision stands as the first commercial measure with a direct impact on Egypt-Italy commercial relations that could also affect Egypt’s national security.

The lack of this spare material could eventually compromise the use of F-16 aircrafts in military operations in the north of Sinai, where Egyptian forces are fighting against terrorist groups.

The decision reflects parliamentary disappointment with what is seen as a lack of cooperation from Cairo in the investigation into Regeni’s brutal killing.

An Egyptian activist holds a poster calling for justice to be done in the case of the recently murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016. (Reuters)

An Egyptian activist holds a poster calling for justice to be done in the case of the recently murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016. (Reuters)

However, Italian Senator Gian Carlo Sangalli said it did not have to be interpreted as a hostile act against Egypt’s government.

“This is merely a symbolic move,” Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy, told Al Arabiya English.

“But it’s still an important stance by Italy’s parliament, and shows the Italian authorities’ attention to human rights in Egypt,” said Noury, adding that Amnesty International is urging Rome to stop all arms supplies to Egypt.

Regeni’s murder has become one of the most delicate diplomatic cases between Italy and Egypt. In April, Italy recalled its ambassador for consultations, in protest at the lack of progress in the investigation by Egyptian authorities.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted that his country wanted “one thing only: the truth about Giulio.”

The 28-year-old student was in Cairo conducting research into labor unions. He disappeared on Jan. 25, and was found dead days later in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo.

Authorities initially blamed his death on a road accident. A second autopsy, done in Italy, determined that he suffered a fatal fracture of a cervical vertebra, either from a strong blow to the neck or from forced twisting of the neck.

In April, Cairo investigators suggested that Regeni was kidnapped and killed by a criminal gang specialized in abducting foreigners, while posing as policemen. This scenario was rejected by Italian authorities, which are still investigating.

Economic ties

Local observers say Italy hesitated in pressuring Egypt due to strong economic ties. Italy is Egypt’s largest trade partner in the EU, and the third-largest internationally after the United States and China.

The volume of bilateral trade has reportedly reached $6 billion, representing 7.2 percent of Egypt’s total trade volume.

Italy’s investments in Egypt are worth $2.6 billion, mostly in transport and banking services, making it the fifth-largest European investor in Egypt.

In Aug. 2015, Italy’s largest oil producer Eni announced the discovery of Zohr, the largest natural gas field ever discovered in the Mediterranean, in the Shorouk block of Egypt’s Sohar basin.

Italy’s Edison is working on a similar discovery in the Northeast Habi Marine block in the Mediterranean.

This in addition to Italian investments in the Suez Cement Factory, which is owned by the Italcementi Group.

Italy has been a top source of tourists for Egypt. About 1 million Italian tourists visited the country in 2010, but this fell to 504,000 in 2015.

Infographic: Who was Giulio Regeni?

Infographic: Who was Giulio Regeni?


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 12:05 - GMT 09:05