French President Emmanuel Macron will pay a visit to Rome this week to sign a new treaty with Italy, strengthening ties between the two founding members of the European Union (EU).
Macroon will sign an agreement with Italian Prime Minister Mario Dragio and Italian President Sergio Matarella on Thursday, and will meet with Pope Francis on Friday.
Italy and France are linked by historical, cultural and linguistic ties, and relations have become stronger in recent decades thanks to the leading role of the EU and NATO.
Despite the deterioration of short-term relations during the Italian populist government in 2018 and 2019, countries now want to emphasize everything they have in common.
The new agreement aims to strengthen cooperation in foreign affairs, defense, security, migration, economics, culture and more, the Macron office said.
A source in the Italian government said the document, which would be signed a few weeks before France took over the rotating presidency of the EU, would be of symbolic value in a time of change in Europe.
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and disputes between the EU’s liberal democracies and their eastern neighbors have shaken the bloc, while its “de facto” leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will soon leave big politics.
“We need to structure Franco-Italian relations (…), we do not know what kind of EU we will have in five or ten years,” said Giuseppe Betoni, a professor at the University of Rome’s Torah Vergata.
The new treaty has been in place since 2017, but the process stalled when the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the national conservative party Līga came to power in Italy in 2018.
Italy has also long been convinced that its European allies have left it alone in the fight against illegal immigration from North Africa.
However, relations between France and Italy improved after the collapse of the M5S and the League’s government and the inauguration of Dragi, the former President of the European Central Bank (ECB), in February this year.
Mark Lazar, a historian and professor at the Paris Institute of Political Science, said Dragi had a major influence in Brussels and that his views were in line with Macron’s vision on many issues related to the economy and the EU’s economic recovery plan.
Macron’s decision to extradite former members of the Red Left to Italy has also eased tensions between the two countries.
The Red Brigades and other far-left groups are to blame for the violence that took place in Italy during the so-called ‘lead years’ from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.
Former French President François Mitterrand once offered extradition protection to left-wing radicals who had fled to France, provided they refused to commit violence and were not charged with bloodshed. This so-called Mitterrand doctrine has been straining relations between France and Italy for decades.
Italy and France both sought to sign the new treaty before Matarella, who strongly supported the agreement, resigned in January. It is rumored that Dragi could take his place.
Macroon, meanwhile, hopes for re-election in the presidential election in April.
In Italy, however, there are some fears that the eurozone’s third-largest economy, after Germany and France, will be taken into French orbit, and economist Carlo Pelanda has condemned “industrial and strategic auto-annexation”.
“Italy is happy that its partner remembers it, but France aims to slightly improve its alliance with Germany,” Lazarus told AFP.