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After rocky few years, Italy & France cement ties with new treaty

After rocky few years, Italy, France cement ties with new treaty

France and Italy drew a line under recent tensions and signed a new treaty on Friday to formalise their relations, against the background of a European Union in flux.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi put pen to paper in a ceremony full of pomp at the Quirinale palace of President Sergio Mattarella.

An aerial acrobatic display by both countries’ air forces followed, trailing the colours of the Italian and French flags across a clear Rome autumn sky.

Draghi said the treaty represented a “historic moment” and evoked among others the writer Umberto Eco and actress Claudia Cardinale, two Italians who have become cultural icons in France, as proof of the strength of ties between the two Mediterranean powers.

At a joint press conference, Macron said the treaty — only the second of its type with an EU partner, after a 1963 treaty with Germany — “seals a deep friendship”.

Italy and France have long been bound by historical, cultural and linguistic ties, their relationship deepened in recent decades by their memberships of both the EU and the NATO military alliance.

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 German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who took a leading role in the EU, is bowing out following September elections.

Both Draghi and Macron emphasised their commitment to closer European integration, particularly in the realm of defence.

“As founding countries of the EU… we defend a more integrated, more democratic, more sovereign Europe,” the French president said.

Macron denied Paris was looking for a “substitution” for its relationship with Berlin that has anchored the EU for more than 60 years, insisting the new Italian treaty was complementary.

Difficult moments

The wide-ranging new Quirinale Treaty foresees greater cooperation in economic and industrial matters, diplomacy and defence, culture, education and climate change among others, aided by regular attendance by ministers from one country to the other’s cabinet meetings.

Macron noted Italy and France had had “difficult moments”, not least the 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 the 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.

In the treaty, Paris and Rome committed to work together for a European migration system “based on the principles of shared responsibility and solidarity between member states”.

France is currently embroiled in a row with Britain over migrant crossings after 27 people died in the Channel.


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