Will the France-Italy agreement change the balance of power in the European Union?

After years of strained relations between Rome and Paris, the agreement is expected to strengthen cooperation. But is this enough to change the center of power within the EU?

The strained relations between Italy and France almost two years ago were described by France as ‘the worst of its kind since World War II’ – when former Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini declared the war on France in 1940.

The most recent uproar between the two countries included then Italian deputy prime ministers’ – Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Northern League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, five-star anti-establishment movement – verbal attacks on the president French Emmanuel Macron and Di Maio meet with the leaders of the Gilets Jaunes protest. Paris recalled its ambassador in retaliation.

Countries have obviously not always been in agreement, but lately tensions have largely focused on migration from the European Union.

The Quirinal Treaty is expected to be signed between the countries on November 25, marking a new chapter in relations with President Macron and current Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

According to Teresa Coratella and Arturo Varvelli, researchers at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), the Franco-Italian pact is a mutual necessity to overcome differences and improve internal cooperation.

“The objective is to contribute together to a stronger EU as a geopolitical and sovereign actor capable of promoting its priorities and defending its interests through the help of the great powers,” said Coratella and Varvelli. TRT World.

The deal comes as countries take stock of economic dynamics within the EU as well as Green Deal developments that could impact both countries.

Main agenda
The 60-page treaty aims to advance industrial and strategic cooperation between the two countries. In this sense, it resembles the Franco-German Elysee Treaty ratified in 1963.

“It covers many strategic files, however, the agenda is still very secret and kept quite secret, which are part of the Italian and French national and foreign agenda,” said Coratella and Varvelli. They also indicated that topics can include traditional issues such as migration, Europe, defense, foreign affairs and other areas such as geopolitical developments related to the pandemic.

The NextGenerationEU recovery plan for sustainability, ecological transition and economic development can also be part of the treaty.

Bodo Weber, senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council (DPC), said the treaty comes at a turning point for the EU, given the interim period in Germany with the end of the Angela Merkel era and before the French presidency of the EU next year.

“The treaty aims to formalize cooperation and bilateral relations between Italy and France and to end the continuing tensions of the previous 5-star Italian government with France,” Weber added.

Draghi and Macron have known each other for some time since the Italian Prime Minister was appointed President of the European Central Bank in 2011.

Their relationship has grown in recent months, with the Italian Prime Minister having a pro-EU lean compared to the previous anti-EU government and keen to find a more important role for Italy in the EU.

The objective of the agreement is to contribute together to a stronger EU as a geopolitical and sovereign actor. (Léon Neal / AP)

They have common views on political issues relating to Libya, China and Russia, and are also aligned with EU monetary policies.

German involvement

In this regard, some argue that the treaty could change the balance of power within the EU, especially with the departure of German Chancellor Merkel after more than 16 years in power.

But according to Coratella and Varvelli, this agreement symbolizes a new junction between France and Italy with German involvement.

“Once the new German government is installed, it will be involved in Franco-Italian cooperation,” they said while adding that this is a natural process and a common Italian attitude towards Berlin based on balance and tradition.

For Weber, this appears to be an initiative to create a bridge between southern and northern Europe – the so-called frugal states – given their different political positions on EU funding and future tax policies.

“If France-Italy cooperates more closely, it would mean close cooperation with other Member States in the South West like Spain and Portugal.”

“I think officials on both sides are trying to make it clear that this is not an initiative that tries to weaken Germany’s position,” he said, adding that France had some interest in filling the defense deficit of EU leaders during this period of change of government in Germany.

While there is speculation as to whether Germany can continue the dominance led by Angela Merkel, Weber argues that with her new coalition government, she can still compete.

The agreement symbolizes a new junction between France and Italy with German involvement.

The agreement symbolizes a new junction between France and Italy with German involvement. (Yoan Valat / AP)

” I don’t think Franco-Italian relations will remain tension-free in the EU in the future and I’m pretty sure that even under the new government, and with the new German Chancellor, we will see the continuation of a strong German role, ” he said, stressing the most traditionally pro-European party, the leading role of the Greens in defining the future of the coalition government.

Nevertheless, it is certain that the Rome-Paris cooperation will have a particular influence on the EU.

“We now have a renewed consolidated political axis between Rome and Paris which will of course have implications for the dynamics of the EU which should however be viewed in a positive way,” said Coratella and Varvelli, asserting that strong Italian-French relations -German would mean a stronger Europe.

Source: TRT World

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