Golden Power and National Security in the game to conquer TIM

Many of the analyses devoted to the battle between the American fund KKR and the French Vivendi for control of TIM have focused on industrial policy aspects in the telecommunications sector. They have only marginally touched on two crucial issues: what this operation means for Italian national security and – consequently – whether and how much the Draghi government should exercise its golden power and prevent the operation by Andrea Monti – Initially published in Italian by Interlex.it

The most straightforward answer to these questions would be – as already happened for Alitalia – to invoke the “Italianness” of TIM and therefore ask to stop the foreign invasion. However, it would be the simplest but the least sensible. Vivendi is French; therefore, the foreigners have already been there for a while. The issue, hence, is not whether TIM is Italian or not, but how Italy could get out of the stranglehold of two foreign countries, of which we are certainly allies, also if the opposite is not necessarily true. In this affair, only one thing is sure: whoever wins will not be Italian. Moreover, whoever wins will take away yet another piece of infrastructure critical to the nation’s very existence.

On the one hand, the presence in the KKR of former CIA director Petraeus could legitimise the most conspiratorial delusions of those who claim that the arrival of KKR would be functional to extend the interception and control capabilities of US intelligence in Europe. Even if we limit ourselves to recent history, from the Crytpo AG case to the interception of European leaders during the Obama administration, to the use of submarine cables landing in Denmark for espionage purposes, it would not be far-fetched to think of such a scenario.

On the other hand, France’s expansionist industrial policy, having bought up hundreds of Italian companies, is trying to maintain control over TIM and acquire OTO-Melara, one of the most important companies in the global armaments sector. At the same time, however, it has not been shy about blocking Italian operations on transalpine soil – or instead on transalpine seas – as in the Fincantieri-STX case. France’s use of state pre-emption has prevented Fincantieri from taking the STX shipyards after the Italian company had participated in and duly won the competition to secure a significant infrastructure.

Thus, returning to the TIM issue, one wonders why the Government is so reluctant to exercise golden power not only over KKR but also over Vivendi; certainly not in the name of nationalistic rhetoric, but because handing over a telecommunications infrastructure like that of TIM into foreign hands means losing control over an essential element of national security. The same national security in the name of which, in 2019, the Conte government passed the decree-law on “cyberspace” to protect itself from the severe and irreparable damage constituted by the possible presence in TIM’s core 5G network of the Chinese giant Huawei.

While the ‘yellow danger’ has not materialised (not least because the concrete applications of 5G are far from being realised), the risk represented by the prevalence of the interests of foreign states over Italian interests in the control TIM is genuine.

Thus, if, as the law says, the Italian Government should use its golden power reasonably and rationally, one would expect the same rigour towards the US and France as towards China. That is unless we want to admit that – as is, unfortunately, happening more and more often in the West too – the rule of law has given way to rule by law so that whatever it takes can be done in the name of doing the right thing.

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