After years of discussions, American and Italian officials have announced that the contested U.S. naval base in the beautiful Maddalena archipelago of Sardinia will be closed. This breathtakingly beautiful group of islands just north of the Sardinian coast might seem an unlikely place for a key American military base, but it has served as a port of call for all US nuclear submarines in the region since its establishment in 1972.
The base has long been opposed by inhabitants of the region due to environmental concerns. Worries about nuclear pollution have repeatedly been raised, particularly after a 2003 submarine accident, which, although not causing serious damage, made locals all the more wary about pollution. In fact, several recent studies have shown traces of uranium and plutonium pollution in the waters surrounding the islet of Santo Stefano.
The departure date is tentatively set for September 2008, but no concrete plans or timelines have been established yet. The base will be transferred to another allied country, says the Italian minister of defense, Antonio Martino, but which one has not yet been specified. Many residents will surely be happy with the removal of this risk to the preservation of this beautiful corner of Italy, but many are also concerned about the economic implications of the removal of the base. Some 3,000 Americans are stationed off the Sardinian coast, including military personnel and their families, which provide over 150 jobs to local civilians and forms an important basis of the island’s economy. — Cailin Birch
Read more about Sardinia in this back issue of Dream of Italy