After years of tense relations between Rome and Paris, the agreement is expected to boost cooperation. But is it enough to change the power centre within the EU?

Tense relations between Italy and France almost two years ago were described by France as ''the worst of its kind since World War Two'' - when former Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini declared war on France in 1940.

The most recent tumult between the two countries included the then Italian deputy prime ministers’ — Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Northern League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment Five Star Movement — verbal attacks on French President Emmanuel Macron and Di Maio's meeting with the Gilet Jaune (Yellow Vests) protest leaders. Paris recalled its ambassador in retaliation.

The countries have obviously not always seen eye to eye but in recent times tensions have focused largely on European Union migration.

The Quirinale Treaty is expected to be signed between the countries on November 25, signalling a new chapter in relations with President Macron and current Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

According to Teresa Coratella and Arturo Varvelli, researchers of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), the Franco-Italian pact is a mutual need to overcome divergences and improve internal cooperation.

''The objective is to contribute together to a stronger EU as a geopolitical and sovereign actor able to promote its priorities and defend its interests challenges by the Great Powers Competition,'' Coratella and Varvelli told TRT World.

The agreement comes as countries are taking stock of economic dynamics within the EU as well as the developments of the Green Deal which could have an impact on both countries.

Main agenda
The 60-page Treaty is aimed at advancing industrial and strategic cooperation between the two countries. In this sense, it resembles the Franco-German Elysee Treaty ratified in 1963.

''It covers many strategic dossiers, however, the agenda is still very secret and kept quite secret, which are part of the Italian and French domestic and foreign agenda,'' said Coratella and Varvelli. They also indicated that topics may include traditional issues such as migration, Europe, defence, foreign affairs and other areas like pandemic-related geopolitical developments.

The NextGenerationEU recovery plan for sustainability, ecological transition and economic development may also be a part of the treaty.

Bodo Weber, a Senior Associate of the Democratization Policy Council (DPC), said that the treaty comes at a turning point for the EU, considering the intermediate period in Germany with the end of the Angela Merkel-era and ahead of France's EU presidency next year.

''The treaty aims to formalise bilateral cooperation and relationship between Italy and France and putting an end to the previous Italian government 5-Star's continuous tensions with France,'' Weber added.

Draghi and Macron have known each other for quite some time since the Italian premier was appointed as the president of the European Central Bank in 2011.

Their relations have developed in recent months as the Italian premier has a pro-EU bent compared to the previous anti-EU government and is interested in finding a stronger role for Italy within the EU.

The objective of the agreemtn is to contribute together to a stronger EU as a geopolitical and sovereign actor.
The objective of the agreemtn is to contribute together to a stronger EU as a geopolitical and sovereign actor. (Leon Neal / AP)

They have common perspectives on policy issues relating to Libya, China and Russia, and are also aligned on EU monetary policies.

German involvement

In this regard, some claim that the treaty may shift the power balance within the EU particularly with the departure of German Chancellor Merkel after over 16 years in power.

But according to Coratella and Varvelli, this agreement symbolises a new juncture between France and Italy with German involvement.

''Once the new German government will be settled, it will be involved in the Franco-Italian cooperation,'' they said while adding that this is a natural process and is a common Italian attitude towards Berlin based on balance and tradition.

For Weber, this seems to be an initiative to create a bridge between southern and northern Europe — the so-called frugal states — considering their different political positions on EU funding and future fiscal policies.

''If France-Italy cooperates closer then, it would mean close cooperation with other South-Western member states like Spain and Portugal.''

''I think the officials from both sides try to make clear that this is not an initiative that is trying to weaken the position of Germany,'' he said while adding France has a certain interest in filling the defence gap of the EU leadership during this period of governmental change in Germany.

Although there is speculation about whether Germany can continue the domination spearheaded by Angela Merkel, Weber argues that with its new coalition government it can still compete.

The agreement symbolises a new juncture between France and Italy with German involvement.
The agreement symbolises a new juncture between France and Italy with German involvement. (Yoan Valat / AP)

''I don't think the French-Italian relations will remain without tensions in future within the EU and I'm pretty sure that even under the new government, and with the new German Chancellor, we'll see the continuation of strong German role,'' he said, highlighting the most traditionally pro-EU party, the Greens' prominent role in defining the future of the coalition government.

Nevertheless, it is certain that the Rome-Paris cooperation will have a particular influence on the EU.

''We have now a renewed consolidated political axis between Rome and Paris which of course will have implications on EU dynamics which however should be seen in a positive way,'' said Coratella and Varvelli, asserting that strong Italian-French-German relations would mean a stronger Europe.

Source: TRT World