Italy and France’s relationship goes back a long way – but can we really call it a friendship? An alliance, maybe, but two years ago, when disputes over migrants crossing the Alpine border were anything but amicable, pats on the back were definitely not on the cards. And yet today in Rome, Emmanuel Macron is due to sign the Quirinale Treaty, which many call the “friendship treaty”. This 60-page Franco-Italian co-operation document deals with everything from defence to education and culture.
First announced in 2017, the treaty was put on ice during the tenure of the populist Five-Star Movement administration in Italy but it has been revived since former ECB head Mario Draghi (pictured, on left, with Macron) took the reins of the Italian government. The diplomatic agreement is modelled on the Franco-German one from 1963, which has been shaping European relations ever since. With Angela Merkel bowing out as Germany’s chancellor, Draghi will be looking to find room for himself on the European decision-making stage. The new pact will be handy for both parties, particularly in light of potential negotiations of post-pandemic fiscal reforms in the EU. The new Franco-Italian axis could hold sway against more frugal cousins from the north.
So can this newfound affection overcome historical pressure points such as business competition and migration? If it all sounds a bit opportunistic, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be productive: haven't we all got some frenemies sticking around that we have no choice but to work with?