Draghi seeks a hole in the Franco-German axis | International

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Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is received by Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace on November 12.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is received by Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace on November 12.DPA via Europa Press (Europa Press)

Italy has spent decades watching from a certain comfort zone in the European Union how France and Germany decide on the big issues. The third economy in the euro zone, founder of the European Union and one of the main claims of the continent, has become used to being the leading power among the weak and the weak among the strong. But the historical moment, they believe in Rome, invites us to propose changes. Just when France and Germany assume the consequences of an electoral period, Mario Draghi, Prime Minister of Italy, has proposed to open a relevant space for Italy. On Thursday, with the arrival of Emmanuel Macron in Rome, the bet will be certified with the signing of the so-called Quirinal Treaty, a legal framework that will streamline relations between the two countries and that will allow a common front to face the changes that are coming.

The document, which is made up of 12 articles, was devised by Macron in 2018 to balance Germany’s economic power. The treaty establishes lines of cooperation on immigration, trade, foreign affairs, security, research, and cultural issues. No specific dossiers are specified and each year an intergovernmental summit will be held between the two presidents and the ministers that are relevant to the issues at hand. It looks at the next challenges, say sources of the negotiation. Especially at the common front to stop the return to economic austerity that some northern countries will seek to impose – even Germany, it is feared – and maintain an expansive fiscal policy. Also for the reform of the stability plan.

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The document, government sources emphasize, does not exclude agreements of the same nature with other countries. In fact, France and Germany have already signed a similar pact with the well-known Elysee Treaty (promoted in 1963 by De Gaulle), which was renewed with the Aachen in 2019. But it is clear that the Draghi Executive today looks further north than in other periods. In 2012, the then Minister of European Affairs, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, invited Spain to the summit to prepare a Council of Europe. It was a turning point. More recently, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte established an intense cooperation with Madrid that allowed negotiating the two best items of recovery funds to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. The treaty, believes a senior Italian diplomatic source, may now represent a step backwards in this regard. “Bilateral treaties make little sense in a system like the European Union. But also, for a state like Italy it is important to maintain a framework of closeness of a broader nature, also at the European level. These pacts leave a bit of a bad taste in the excluded countries. The European Union should overcome the need to do so ”.

Relations between Italy and France in recent years had been abysmal. They began to go wrong with the invasion of Libya in 2011, which Nicolas Sarkozy accelerated and which Silvio Berlusconi resisted. Italy was forced to support it after the activation of NATO. The years, perhaps by chance, as in so many other strategic games, gave the Cavaliere part of reason. But the war for energy between Total and Eni, the two national flag companies, continued until today with different bets from both countries to lead the reconstruction: France promoted the candidacy of General Haftar and Italy that of Prime Minister Al-Serraj. “Without real European action we find the Russians and the Turks there. It is useless to compete with each other. Now collaboration is very important, says Sandro Gozi, MEP of the Renew group and one of the promoters of this treaty as Secretary of State for European Affairs in the period of Paolo Gentiloni as Prime Minister. Faced with the Turkish advance in the Libyan area, Rome believes, France is today the lesser evil.

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The governments of Giuseppe Conte, especially the former, worsened relations between the two countries. Those were times when the aggressiveness of French companies, which tried to take over Mediaset and entered the telephony giant Tim, added to the clumsy dabbling in the Yellow Vests of the then vice president, Luigi Di Maio, muddied any solution. Matteo Salvini, Minister of the Interior, started a war against Paris on account of borders and immigration and no one was able to stop the escalation until Draghi arrived. The former president of the European Central Bank (ECB) today maintains an extraordinary personal relationship with Macron, they have in his environment. “We must remember that the French president made a wonderful farewell speech when he left the presidency of the ECB,” recall sources from the Executive.

Times have now changed. And the time is right. Mario Draghi is at the crossroads of deciding whether to opt for the Quirinal Palace, where Sergio Mattarella will have to leave. And Emmanuel Macron enters an electoral process that will take him away from the focus on international issues. “This was the perfect moment,” say government sources, stressing that the two leaders have already met six times in less than a year. “There’s a lot feeling. From this point of view, the relationship is very positive. And as a consequence, this treaty has had an acceleration and it has been wanted to close before the end of the year ”, they insist.

The agreement has generated tensions on the Italian right, especially Brothers of Italy. Meloni’s party believes that “it is scandalous that Parliament has not been informed of its content.” Something that the law, however, anticipates doing a posteriori. But the document has been applauded by the majority of members of the Unit Executive. The deputy of the Partito Democratico Piero Fassino, an expert foreign observer and president of the Committee on International Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies, believes that “it is a leap in quality to act on the basis of common strategies in the main dossiers of the European agenda and international. Furthermore, we must not forget that France is after Germany the second largest trading partner of Italy, with common interests in the Mediterranean, we are among the founders of the European Union. I do not think this is an attempt to break the Franco-German axis, which has a long and rooted history. The EU in the last 65 years has lived on this binomial, but also on the Italian-German bridge with the Christian democracies that ruled their countries with great understanding for decades ”. Italy, in any case, looks towards that point in Europe to face the reforms that are coming.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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