After years of diplomatic tensions, France and Italy will sign a historic pact of friendship and cooperation on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Rome to sign the “Enhanced Cooperation Treaty between France and Italy” with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
According to the Elysee, this treaty “will promote the convergence of the French and Italian positions, as well as the coordination of the two countries in matters of European and foreign policy, security and defense, migration policy, economy, education, research, culture and cross-border cooperation. . “
The measure will have “important symbolic value” in a European context marked by instability after Brexit and the political transition in Germany, said an Italian government source.
The pact will also aim to tilt the balance of power in Europe after the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an Italian government source told Reuters news agency.
It comes almost 60 years after a Franco-German treaty signed by Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle gave new impetus to the European integration process.
Can the new Franco-Italian pact reshape the European Union in the same way as its Franco-German ancestor?
This is what we know so far about the agreement and its possible consequences for Europe.
What is the pact about?
Named after the palace of the Italian Presidency in Rome, the “Quirinale Treaty” was announced in 2017 to give “a more stable and ambitious framework” to Franco-Italian cooperation.
Paris and Rome wanted to wrap it up before the departure in January of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who is at the end of his seven-year term, and ahead of the 2022 French presidential elections.
While the details of the pact have not yet been revealed, “what we know is that there will be 11 chapters covering many different topics ranging from internal affairs such as youth and research to European cohesion and foreign policy,” Mathilde said. Ciulla, program coordinator of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris.
“Basically, it is about institutionalizing and structuring the partnership between France and Italy,” the expert told Euronews.
“Obviously, the two countries have been working together for quite some time, but the Franco-Italian relationship did not have what the Franco-German relationship had with the Elysee Treaty. So I think it’s about structuring the relationship and trying to match. this level of cooperation, “which is” for a long time, “he added.
From the crisis to the ‘honeymoon’?
The treaty will also help address the recent tensions between Rome and Paris.
A series of disputes has strained transalpine relations in recent years, especially after the formation in 2018 of a populist government led by the 5-Star Movement and the far-right Liga party.
The crisis peaked in early 2019 when the vice president of the Italian Council, Luigi Di Maio, met in France with a leader of the “yellow vests” protest movement.
Shortly before, the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, called for the resignation of the French president.
To protest, Paris temporarily called its ambassador to Italy in what became the most serious diplomatic crisis between the two neighbors since 1945.
Italy, for its part, says that Paris has left it alone in managing the flows of migrants that disembark on its shores.
Rome also criticized Paris for harboring former members of the far-left “Red Brigades” who had taken refuge in France. But Macron ended the Mitterrand-era doctrine by ordering his arrest last April.
The two countries have fully re-established ties under Draghi, whose pro-European and centrist views are in tune with Macron’s.
From now on, “we are in the middle of a honeymoon between Paris and Rome,” said historian Marc Lazar, a professor at Sciences Po.
“There are many points of convergence at a time when Germany is between two waters,” he told AFP.
But some in Italy are wary of their European neighbor, who is sometimes seen as a greedy business partner.
Earlier this year, a failed takeover of the shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique by the Italian group Fincantieri disappointed Rome.
For some Italians, the French have an appetite for Italian businesses, but sometimes they have a hard time accepting reciprocity.
Therefore, the treaty has drawn criticism in Italy. The economist Carlo Pelanda, writing in Starmag magazine, called it “a self-annexation to France, on an industrial and strategic level.”
Ciulla told Euronews that neither Rome nor Paris were “naive”, and that issues like migration were going to remain sensitive issues.
But the treaty offers a “commitment to work together,” he added, ensuring that tensions will not escalate to the point of calling in ambassadors.
What does the pact mean for the rest of the EU?
A positive result of the pact would be if “the countries of the south are listened to more,” Ciulla said. “And I think France can help do that because it is closer to some of the southern countries like Italy, Spain or Greece.”
“In economic matters, for example, or in migration, the French can help and bring that to the frugal states” of northern Europe, the expert continued.
He insisted that the new alliance was not against Berlin.
“I think Germany is quite happy that this is happening because they have always insisted that the Franco-German relationship is really important, but the EU is not just about the Franco-German relationship,” Ciulla told Euronews.
The move could also “be viewed positively in smaller states, showing that France is not just about Germany, and that France recognizes the importance and opinion of other states,” he continued.
“But once again, it’s always about communication. You know, France has not always been very good at communicating its initiatives and explaining what it is doing. So maybe this new treaty should also be accompanied by a great communication initiative with other states, “he said. : ‘This is us, asking for collaboration and open to coalition building.’
Ultimately, the fate and importance of the new treaty will largely depend on the results of the upcoming elections on both sides of the Alps, with the two countries holding presidential races in the coming months.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism