Today, April 10th 2021,
the second Italian FREMMfrigate purchased by Egypt in June 2020 is expected to be delivered to theEgyptian Navy. According to newsagency DiRE, the frigate has recently completedthe required testing procedures in the Italian harbour of La Spezia, where itsEgyptian crew also received ad hoc training*. Originally produced for theItalian Navy, the frigate "Emilio Bianchi" was sold to Egypt as partof a 990 million euros deal, which includes another frigate delivered in December2020, and other military equipment. After the purchase, it will be renamed"Bernees" and its new Egyptian matriculation number will be 1003.
Since 2019, Egypt has become the main buyer ofItalian military equipment and all evidence seems to indicate that thevolume of such trade is increasing at a steady pace. Egypt bought two FREMMfrigates in June 2020 from Fincantieri, a corporation owned at 71,32% by theItalian government -the deal is estimated to be worth approximately 990 millioneuros. Besides, the country has been importing light weapons produced orshipped by Italy for its police forces at least since 2014.** Between 2016 and2019, the volume of the arms sales to Egypt has increased from 7.4 million toover 871.1 million euros, and solely in 2019 Italy authorised export licensesfor military equipment to Egypt for 871.1 million euros, according on the dataprovided by the Italian Parliament’s Annual Reports over the last years. Both the Italian domestic law on arms trade ndthe Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which Italy signed in 2014, prohibit the releaseof export licenses for shipping military equipment to companies in countriesresponsible in large scale of systematic or severe human rights abuses.Considering that the UN Rapporteurs for Human Rights have consistentlydenounced the existence of patterns of systematic human rights violations inthe post-coup crackdown on Egyptian civil society, it can be argued that Italyhas been violating its own law all along by maintaining and even increasing thevolume of arms sales to Egypt. The existence of well-established strategic andcommercial agreements between Italy and Egypt after the Giulio Regeni casemight look inexplicable, especially considering the nation-wide mobilisationwhich brought thousands of Italians to demand the suspension of friendlydiplomatic relations with Egypt. The Italian government justified theinfeasibility of disrupting agreementswith Egypt with the existence of supreme national interests which can only beguaranteed through the agreements with Egypt - a rather weak argument. AsFrancesco Vignarca, director of Rete italiana Pace e Disarmo,recently pointed out, the deal over the two FREMM frigates represents asignificant economic loss for Italy.In fact, the Italian Navy is now topurchase war ships and additional equipment in replacement for those sold toEgypt, for a production cost estimated to be over 1.2 billion euros, therebyexceeding the price paid by Egypt for the first two frigates.
Italy has chosen to prioritise strategicagreements and (miscalculated) economic interests over the legitimate demandfor accountability and justice raised by its civil society. All this at theexpenses of the Egyptian people, whose human rights and liberties are beingsystematically infringed upon. This choice is profoundly political in nature,and further deteriorated the already dire situation of human rights in Egypt.