Romance singing: how the union of Paris and Rome is changing the political alignment in the EU

On November 26, French and Italian presidents Emmanuel Macron and Sergio Mattarella will sign the Quirinal Treaty, a document cementing an informal alliance between Paris and Rome, similar to the 1963 Elysee Treaty of Friendship between the Fifth Republic and Germany. The moment to designate an application for leadership in the European Union is the most appropriate: the long-term chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, who often set the tone in internal European affairs, is leaving the political scene. However, as Izvestia’s interlocutors in Paris assured, the Paris-Rome axis being created is not a counterweight to Germany, but rather an attempt to form a new “global troika” in the European Union following Britain’s withdrawal from there. What does this mean for the political alignments in the EU and how it will affect Russia – in the material of Izvestia.

Franco-Italian pendulum

The idea to seal the treaty of friendship between France and Italy on paper appeared back in 2017, when the current president, Emmanuel Macron, was already in power in the first country, and the second cabinet was headed by Paolo Gentiloni. However, the coalition government of the Five Stars and the League, which soon replaced him, immediately started heated disputes with the French over migrants, and the draft treaty was shelved.

Moreover, just two years ago, the friendship between Rome and Paris seemed impossible not only on paper, but also in practice. In early 2019, France recalled its ambassador from Rome for the first time since World War II for consultations after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with representatives of the French yellow vest protest movement near Paris.

Фото: Global Look Press/Sadak Souici/ZUMAPRESS

Last summer, the Franco-Italian Entente began in a new way: in part, the parties rallied an ambitious plan for economic recovery after the pandemic in the European Union, which was jointly put forward by President Macron and then Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. With the arrival of Mario Draghi, a former investment banker, like Macron, who adheres to pro-European, market views, as prime minister earlier this year, the friendship has finally grown stronger.

Italy is “a fraternal nation with which France undoubtedly shares more than any other country,” head of the Elysee Palace of Italian President Sergio Mattarella warmly assured Italian President Sergio Mattarella this summer, when he arrived in Paris on his first foreign visit since the start of the pandemic.

Tandem is authorized to report

The presidents of France and Italy intend to put relations between Rome and Paris on a more solid foundation on November 26 in the Eternal City. On this day at 9 am, Emmanuel Macron and Sergio Mattarella will sign the 60-page Quirinal Treaty, named after the Italian presidential palace.

As the press amicably wrote these days, in many respects the current document is built on the model of the Franco-German friendship treaty, signed back in 1963 by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer at the Elysee Palace, in honor of which it was named the Elysee. It was that document that became the starting point in the end of the long-term Franco-German rivalry and the prologue to close cooperation between Berlin and Paris within the European Union in all subsequent years.

Emmanuel Macron and Sergio Mattarella

Фото: Global Look Press/Panoramic/Keystone Press Agency

However, politicians preferred to avoid such analogies.

– You can often hear comparisons between the Quirinal Franco-Italian cooperation agreement and the French-German Elysee, which was a reconciliation agreement. We don’t have to put up with Italy. This is an agreement with a neighbor and partner, with whom we have a common cultural heritage, aimed at stabilizing our long-term partnership through consultation and cooperation and giving it another dimension, ”the deputy from the pro-presidential party and head of the Franco-Italian friendship group explained to Izvestia in the National Assembly of France Christophe Di Pompeo.

According to him, the agreement prescribes such things as joint support for technological innovations, creates a bilateral youth forum, an economic forum of ministers, and expands cultural exchanges. In addition, according to the deputy, he will also strengthen the basis for consultations between the two countries in foreign and European affairs in the field of defense and security.

It is believed that the first thing the two countries will work together to reform the EU Stability and Growth Pact, which limited the budget deficit of each EU country at 3%, and the national debt at 60%. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, these financial rules were suspended, but due to their imminent revision, Paris has repeatedly called on the EU to weaken the requirements and adapt them to the post-coronavirus realities, in which it found the full support of Rome. And analysts believe that it will be much easier for France and Italy to fight the opposition on this issue from financial conservatives such as Austria, Finland and the Netherlands.

Nothing personal just business

As sources in the Elysee Palace poetically told the Italian news agency ANSA on the eve of Macron’s visit to Rome, there is now “an alignment of the planets in favor of Franco-Italian cooperation.” However, the moment for this was a good one, not so much from the point of view of astronomy as, based on the current geopolitics.

In part, the parties were in a hurry with the signing until the departure in January of next year from his post of President Mattarella (even if not he, but Prime Minister Mario Draghi plays the main role in Italy). And also – to have time before Emmanuel Macron goes headlong into the election race for re-election in April, which will greatly limit his activity in the European arena, as is now Germany, which is bidding farewell to the era of Angela Merkel and awaiting the formation of a new government.

Mario Dragi

Фото: Global Look Press / Filippo Attili / Us Palazzo Chigi

In this regard, some European analysts suggested that the newfound friendship between Paris and Rome would weaken the Paris-Berlin axis somewhat. “The new power couple is fighting for leadership in Europe, only this time one half is not German,” the Politico, in particular, wrote ironically, analyzing the rapprochement between France and Italy.

“As for Germany, we have never played in triangles of jealousy in France’s relations with its European partners,” Christophe Di Pompeo disowned plans to weaken Berlin’s role in the EU.

Dominique Moisy, senior adviser to the French L’Institut Montaigne, expressed a similar idea to Izvestia.

– Yes, Angela Merkel is leaving power, and at this very moment two strong leaders – Italy and France, who are very close to each other, want to create stable long-term relations. But this is not against Berlin, the political scientist said. “The French are very well aware of the fact that the Franco-German alliance is irreplaceable. There is a completely different actor here, whose role has become decisive – Great Britain.

Before Britain left the European Union, London, Paris and Berlin formed a kind of “global troika” within the EU, and in a way the Quirinal Treaty became part of an attempt to create a new “global troika” within the EU, replacing London with Rome, summed up Dominique Moisy.

At the same time, he noted that with the signing of the agreement, bilateral friction between the business elites of Italy and France will not go anywhere.

Angela Merkel

Фото: Global Look Press/John Macdougall/dpa

– The competition that exists will continue. Political convergence should not be confused with major economic interests and competition, said Dominique Moisy.

One of the main tests could be the possible sale of the Italian arms manufacturer, owned by the state-controlled defense group Leonardo, to the Franco-German joint venture KMW + Nexter. Supporters of the deal say it will help Italy’s defenses by cutting costs and provide visible evidence of increased European defense cooperation. However, the Movement of Five Stars, as well as the Democratic Party of Italy, strongly oppose the “sale of Italian strategic assets to foreign investors”, believing that this jeopardizes jobs in Italy and helps France to get rid of a competitor.

Meanwhile, Italy’s strengthening and its status in making foreign policy decisions within the EU can be considered good news for Moscow as well.

– Italy remains the most Russian-friendly country among the major EU members. She has always advocated dialogue and minimizing sanctions, was the most constructive, focused on the Russian Federation. And it does not regard Moscow as a threat to its security, Russia for Italy is, rather, a partner in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, an important economic partner, a sales market, as well as a supplier, including of energy products, – explained Izvestia »Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics.

So with the strengthening of Italy within the EU, the intensification of confrontation in relations between Russia and the EU may slow down a little, the expert concluded.

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