Cession of the Fremm to Egypt? De Giorgi: "Illusions for an Italy increasingly defenseless at the international level"

(To Andrea Cucco)

Only a few years ago, a chief of staff had raised a cry of alarm regarding the number of ships being decommissioned which, within a decade, would have irremediably compromised the operational capacity of the Navy.

The warning did not go unheeded and the so-called "Naval Law" was approved to compensate with 11 units (+3 optional) - over a decade - for the loss of over 50 ships.

Parliament - let us remember - only financed a first tranche of the renovation plan necessary to replace the ships destined for decommissioning in the Navy. A lack of means was therefore "alleviated" and certainly not resolved.

To understand if even here, as for the coronavirus, "everything will be fine", we interviewed the promoter of the rescue of the Armed Force in 2014, the still today (whispering ...) regret Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi.

After the phone call between Prime Minister Conte and General Al Sisi, the government will give the green light to the sale of the 9th and 10th Fremm destined for the Italian Navy, despite the still open wound of the assassination of Giulio Regeni (in the photo President Conte receives the parents). Admiral, what are your considerations?

Firstly, I want to express my closeness to the family of Giulio Regeni and Patrick George Zaki. The announced decision, if confirmed by Parliament it will certainly cause further suffering and disorientation.

As for the more technical aspects regarding the legitimacy of the operation, the matter is regulated by the law 1990 nr. 185 which, in paragraph 6, prohibits the sale or transfer of heavy armaments to countries in a state of armed conflict, whose policy contrasts with the principles of art. 11 of our Constitution, whose Governments are responsible for serious human rights violations. The same prohibitions apply to the outsourcing of arms production abroad.

Egypt is active in two coalitions engaged in two conflicts (Libya and Yemen), says rebel general Haftar despite the arms embargo on Libya and on the respect of human rights by the government of Al Sisi there is a wide literature on the matter, in addition of course to the Regeni and Zacki case of more direct Italian interest.

There are those who oppose the moral aspects of the need for a pragmatic approach, given the size of the order at stake: in addition to the two Fremm intended for the Navy, Egypt would buy 4 frigates to be built in Italy, about twenty Patrol boats to build in Egypt, Eurofighter fighter ... Someone called it the order of the century.

For the moment the only thing that seems certain to me is that Italy will surrender the frigates Emilio Bianchi and Spartaco Schergat (headed to two gold medals for military valor) to Egypt, however with funds advanced by Italy itself, for approximately € 1.1 billion (650 million already paid to Fincantieri, to which approximately € 450 million of Cassa Depositi a Prestiti will be added). The other four Fremm are optional, with no commitment for Egypt. It would have been reasonable to expect the opposite. A contract signed for 4 Frigates and two additional options. It is possible that this option did not materialize at all, once the two Italian Fremm were obtained under such advantageous conditions.

As regards the construction of patrolling ships in Egypt by Fincantieri, this would represent yet another delocalization of production activities abroad, to the detriment of the national shipbuilding industry, of the revival of employment in the naval engineering and related industries. It would add to the relocations already carried out by Fincantieri in Romania (whose staff is often used also in Riva Trigoso), in Norway, in the United States, etc ... I understand the convenience for Fincantieri, but it does not seem to me a choice in the interest of Italy. Just as it would risk to be counterproductive to create a shipbuilding center in the Middle East, able to compete with the Italian shipbuilding industry in the years to come.

The Pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of advanced nations due to the dependence on foreign strategic production capacities, lost as a result of industrial relocation. A theme that applies to materials essential for public health, but also to industrial capacity linked to high technology, military shipbuilding and national defense in general.

It is time to bring industrial investment back to Italy, with the obvious benefits in terms of GDP and jobs.

To what extent would the Navy be weakened by the sale of the two FREMMs?

It is the national maritime capacity that is being weakened, just as the security situation in the Mediterranean is becoming increasingly agitated. The Navy would lose two of the 10 planned Frigates. With a line of only 8 Frigates, we could continuously have 4 or 5 at most. The dispossession of the Navy also appears to be a completely inconsistent choice with the recognition by Parliament, in 2014, of the urgent need to renew and strengthen the fleet to avoid its progressive extinction.

Unfortunately, the sale of the two units is not, as far as I know, not even subject to the signing of a construction contract, without additional charges for the Treasury, of two new Fremm for the Navy.

In summary, the state would end up financing Egypt and Fincantieri to sell two new flaming frigates, without the certainty of full refreshment for the Treasury. In the costs incurred by the Public Administration, those relating to the transfer of staff and their families from the various offices in La Spezia should also be considered, to equip the new units and for their training.

I believe that the signing of a contract that legally commits Fincantieri and to return to the State two Fremm to be built in Italy, in place of those "anticipated" to Egypt, must be an indispensable premise to the operation, obviously assuming that the most sensitive political forces to the issue of human rights agree to go beyond the spirit of law 1990/185.

The sale of the two ships would also lead to important returns for Leonardo. There is talk of a sale of Eurofighter Typhoon.

On this aspect, I allow myself to observe how Egypt signed a contract with Russia in 2020 for the supply of 30/40 modern Sukhoi fighters 35 (Photo), which are added to 50 Mig 29M, still in the delivery phase, to 24 Rafale (the first delivered in July 2017), 15 Mirage 2000 and to 209 F16, received through the US multi-year program "Peace Vector".

A further diversification of the Egyptian aerotactic line does not seem realistic to me. Already as it is currently articulated it seems to me a logistical nightmare.

Again, the sale of the two Italian FREMMs would not be subject to a contextual EFA hunting order. So we would still be in the so-called "wishful thinking".

How do you comment on the news about French opposition to this Fincantieri initiative?

I note only that Fincantieri and the French consortium Naval Group have signed, through the Joint Venture Naviris, a strategic alliance regarding the military ships sector. It does not seem likely to me that Fincantieri moves without the consent of the French partner.

Finally, those who imagine that by submitting to the will of General Al Sisi, Italy will ensure the protection of Egypt, to protect our interests in an anti-Turkish key, is destined to be disappointed. In Libya and the Mediterranean, Turkey and Egypt are much more likely to end up agreeing to divide the region into areas of influence. As happened between Russia and Turkey in Syria. As is happening in Libya, at the expense of an increasingly defenseless Italy, in perpetual untimely pendulum among the Powerful of the moment.

Photo: Navy / web / Fincantieri / MoD Russian Fed