Interview: Angelino Alfano
What are some of the historical and cultural links between Italy and Algeria?
ANGELINO ALFANO: The relationship is deeply rooted in our common history in the Mediterranean. Over time, we have established strong cultural, scientific and economic ties, which have led to a consolidated and long-lasting friendship. Today, Algeria represents a strategic partner for Italy in many fields, especially in relation to some of our shared challenges. In 1999 President Bouteflika chose Italy for his first visit to a European country, and our bilateral relationship was then enshrined in 2003’s Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation, which foresees numerous areas of collaboration and regular high-level political consultations.
What role does Italy see for itself in terms of supporting economic modernisation in Algeria?
ALFANO: Since Algeria’s independence, Italy has been very supportive of its economic development. Over the years, Italian companies, in partnership with Algerian firms, have realised multiple projects in the fields of energy and infrastructure – such as highways, dams and railways – making Algeria among the most advanced countries in Africa. The key feature of the success of our economic relations lies in the fact that the cooperation between Italian and Algerian companies has always implied the exchange of knowledge, sharing best business practices and providing advanced training. Today we look with utmost interest to the Algerian government’s effort to diversify the economy of the country. The Italian experience with small and medium-sized enterprises could be shared locally in order to foster growth and sustainable development as key to promoting peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean.
How can trade and collaboration between Italian and Algerian companies be developed further?
ALFANO: In 2016 Italy was Algeria’s first commercial partner, constituting its biggest client and third-largest supplier, with over $9bn exchanged between the two countries. While acknowledging the difficult circumstances Algeria is faced with today, we are committed to the idea that exchanges remain an essential engine for growth and mutual advantages.
The Association Agreement between Algeria and the EU offers a unique framework to further increase business opportunities, and we strongly support the plan outlined by the Algerian government to boost investments and improve the business climate. Opportunities for partnerships already exist, and we need to encourage joint ventures in key sectors such as agribusiness, renewable energy, environment, automotive, innovation and creativity. For this purpose, an Algerian-Italian business club has been set up recently as a framework for meetings and exchanges between Italian and Algerian enterprises.
In which sectors do you see the most potential to strengthen bilateral ties?
ALFANO: Italy and Algeria have a long-standing strategic relationship, which was reinforced even in the difficult period of the 1990s. The centrality of the economic component of such a relationship is inarguable, but it is not the only factor that binds us.
In terms of regional security, Algeria is a key partner in the fight against terrorism, as well as other illicit transnational activities, including a common understanding of the relevance of the Sahel. We also work closely on Euromed and UN-related issues and hold a shared approach towards the Libyan crisis in view of the stabilisation of the country – a strategic priority for us. Algeria also represents an important bridge to sub-Saharan Africa due to its history, policy and geopolitical assets. On an international level, we collaborate closely to overcome the significant challenges posed by globalisation, from fighting climate change to addressing the root causes of migration. In short, our shared relations represent a win-win partnership.
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