Italy and France sign Rome treaty aimed at changing EU power balance

Italian and French leaders drew a line under previous tensions between their countries as they signed a new treaty expected to shift the balance of power in Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Paris earlier in November. Photo: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi put pen to paper at the Quirinale palace, the office of President Sergio Mattarella, on Friday.

An aerial acrobatic display by both countries’ air forces followed.

The deal is aimed at tilting the balance of power in Europe after the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Italian government sources cited by Reuters.

The accord will boost cooperation between the countries on the economy and industry, culture and education, security, cross-border cooperation and foreign affairs.

READ ALSO: ‘We’ll miss you’: Merkel gets fond farewell in Rome

The project was first mooted in 2018 under Italy’s then-premier Paolo Gentiloni, but relations between Rome and Paris deteriorated after the election of the populist government of the League and the Five Star Movement.

At a press conference, the leaders of the two Mediterranean powers long bound by historical, cultural and linguistic ties emphasised their closeness, but also their joint commitment to the wider EU project.

Draghi called it a “historic moment”, which “intends to favour and accelerate the process of European integration”.

Macron said the treaty “seals a deep friendship”.

“Founding countries of the EU… we defend a more integrated, more democratic, more sovereign Europe,” he added.

Emmanuel Macron (L) and Mario Draghi shake hands after signing the Quirinale Treaty at Villa Madama in Rome on November 26th, 2021. Photo: Domenico Stinellis/POOL/AFP

The treaty was signed just weeks before France takes over the rotating EU presidency in January, and at a time of change on the continent.

Britain’s messy exit and rows between the EU’s liberal democracies and their eastern neighbours have roiled the bloc, while its de facto leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is finally bowing out following September elections.

Macron noted the two countries had had “difficult moments”, likely a reference to a diplomatic crisis in early 2019 when Italy’s then populist government openly criticised the French president.

Ties improved with a new government in Rome later that year and have gone from strength to strength with the arrival in office earlier this year of Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief.

Draghi thanked Macron for handing over former members of the far-left Red Brigades group that terrorised Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. Their safe haven for decades in France had been a long-standing source of tension.

There has also been simmering irritation in Italy over feelings it has been left by European allies to face tens of thousands of migrants from North Africa who arrive on its shores each year.

Draghi said both sides agreed on the need for a shared EU migration and asylum policy.

Member comments

  1. A ‘more sovereign Europe’ presumably requires a less sovereign France. They might even have to get that budget deficit under control .

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Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.