Italy, France to sign treaty to strengthen ties

Italy, France to sign treaty to strengthen ties

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi shake hands as they meet at the Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy on November 25, 2021. ROME, Nov 26, Reuters - The leaders of Italy and France will sign a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties at a time when European diplomacy is tested by the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Quirinale Treaty aims to strengthen cooperation between Paris and Rome in areas such as defence, migration, economy, culture and trade.

A new coalition pact was agreed in Germany shortly after the signing ceremony took place in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged close ties with successive French leaders.

The Berlin administration is expected to be more inward looking, especially at the beginning of its mandate, and both Paris and Rome are keen to deepen relations in a period that is dominated by economic uncertainty, the Pandemic, a more assertive Russia, a rising China and a more disengaged United States.

A senior Italian diplomatic source said that Macron's intention is to create a new axis with Italy, while it's in Italy's interest to hook up with the France-Germany duo.

In 2017 negotiations on the new treaty ground were halted when a populist government took office in Rome and clashed with Macron over immigration.

In 2019 when Macron recalled France's ambassador to Italy, relations hit a new low, but there has been a renaissance this year after the appointment of former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to lead an Italian unity government.

A French diplomatic source rejected the suggestion that the new axis between the European Union's second and third largest economies represented any re-alignment of Paris's diplomatic priorities.

We have never played a jealousy triangle with European partners. The source said that these bilateral relations, when they are strong, complement each other.

The Quirinale Treaty, named after the Italian president's residence, is loosely modelled on a 1963 Franco-German pact, and is expected to lead to Paris and Rome seeking common ground ahead of EU summits, just as France coordinates key European policy moves with Germany.

There will be special interest in sections that cover economic ties and cooperation in strategic sectors, and there will not be a release of the full details of the pact.

In recent years, French companies have invested heavily in Italy, but Italian politicians have accused Paris of being less forthcoming when Italian businesses seek cross-border deals.

State-owned shipmaker Fincantieri's bid to take over its French rival Chantiers de l Atlantique collapsed earlier this year, thwarted by EU competition issues.

Italian officials suspected that Paris tried to undermine the deal behind the scenes.