Sunday, August 31, 2008

Italy compensates -- Libya

Many former colonies, now independent states, have said for years that their colonial masters owe them compensation for the years of plunder of theier country's resources. Now, at least one country has owed up. Surprisingly, it's Italy.

Italy ruled Libya (illegally) from 1911 to 1947. It was then under a UK / France trusteeship until it gained independence in 1951. After all this time, Italy finally agreed to pay €3.4 billion -- about $5 billion -- which will be released over twenty five years.

It's the right thing to do, but it does set an interesting precedent. For one thing, Italy will almost certainly get the contracts for energy development as well as the construction of a trans-Libya expressway, going from Tunisia in the west to Egypt in the east.

For another, it raises some uncomfortable questions. Does the UK owe its former colonies compensation, including the wealthier ones -- Canada and Australia, for instance? Does the US owe anything to the Phillipines? Or Australia, Papua New Guinea?


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