The Italian-Bahraini Journey to Collaboration
By Piercamillo Falasca
IN THE INTRICATE tapestry of international relations, the story of Italy and Bahrain stands out as a remarkable testament to the power of transformation. These two countries, once entangled in the hostilities of World War II, have emerged from the shadows of their contentious past to forge a present marked by cooperation and mutual respect.
The discord between Italy and Bahrain found its roots during the tumultuous days of World War II. On 18 October 1940, four Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 bombers took off from the Dodecanese Islands in the Eastern Mediterranean, then part of Italy, and struck Bahrain’s oil refineries in the Arabian Gulf before safely landing in the Italian colony of Eritrea on the Red Sea coast. This daring feat — the longest-ever mission of its kind and the first three-continent bombing expedition in history — caught the British forces by surprise. Bahrain, considered remote and secure, was exposed, leading to significant damage to its oil transmission infrastructure. While the physical impact was limited, the event demonstrated the vulnerability of the Gulf and compelled the British Empire to divert resources to defend its protectorates and assets in the region.
Fast forward to the present and Italy and Bahrain have undergone a profound transformation in their relationship. In 2002, Italy opened its embassy in Bahrain, marking the initiation of a renewed engagement between the two countries. Over the years, intensive diplomatic efforts paved the way for political dialogues and bilateral collaborations across various issues. The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2008 further solidified their commitment, creating a foundation for constructive dialogues on international and regional matters.
Economically, Italy and Bahrain diversified their ties, extending beyond oil. In 2021, according to The Observatory of Economic Complexity, Italy exported products worth $324 million to Bahrain, including liquid pumps, valves, metallurgy, food, fashion, and cars. Bahrain reciprocated with exports totalling $269 million to Italy, with raw aluminium, raw plastic sheeting, and refined petroleum leading the way. These figures reflected a consistent growth trajectory, illustrating the depth of their economic integration.
A pivotal moment of the Italian-Bahrain economic was the signature, in 2021, of a significant memorandum of understanding, establishing a Bilateral Joint Commission. This commission, symbolising their deepening collaboration, convened its inaugural high-level meeting in Rome on 09 June 2023. This meeting reaffirmed the shared commitment of Italy and Bahrain to bolster their economic, political and cultural ties.
A significant milestone in this evolving relationship occurred in July 2023, as a delegation of small and medium-sized Italian enterprises embarked on a mission to Bahrain. Organized by Sace in collaboration with Bahraini company Bapco Energies and supported by the Italian Embassy in Bahrain and the Desk Ice, this mission aimed to create business opportunities in the energy sector. Italian businesses seized this occasion to engage with key Bahraini companies, fostering new avenues for collaboration and promoting Italian exports under the banner of ‘Made in Italy.’
Over the span of just a few decades, the relationship between Italy and Bahrain has transformed from conflict to partnership. Their story serves as a beacon of hope, showcasing the transformative power of dialogue, cooperation, and shared aspirations. As the bonds between Italy and Bahrain continue to strengthen, the world bears witness to yet another testament to the potential for positive change in international relations. Even the most challenging histories can pave the way for a harmonious future, inspiring nations worldwide to pursue collaboration over conflict.