Last November, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi signed a treaty in Rome, the so-called Quirinal Treaty. The idea of a bilateral agreement between France and Italy had already been suggested in 2017, at a time when the current European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni was Italy’s prime minister. However, France-Italy relations deteriorated after the 2018 Italian elections, which brought to the creation of a government led by a coalition of the Five Star movement and the League, eventually leading to the recalling of the French ambassador in Italy after the former Five Star movement’s leader Luigi Di Mario publicly showed support to the gilets jaunes movement. The decline in Franco-Italian relations has been reversed under Draghi’s government and the agreement was finally struck on the 26th of November, in the Quirinale Palace, the official residence of the Italian President of the Republic.
The treaty aims at improving collaboration between the two countries in various matters of common interest: foreign affairs, defence and security, European policies, immigration, economic and industrial development, culture and education are amongst the most notable ones. It is quite rare in its nature, as such bilateral agreements are rare in recent European History, with France having signed one only with Germany in 1963, the Elysée Treaty, showing both nations’ determination to work closely with each other to reach their common goals. In the 12 articles, great importance is placed on the need for the consolidation of the European Union’s strategic role on the global stage.
The Quirinale Palace, where the treaty was signed - Source: Quirinale
In the context of foreign affairs, the two Parties, as they are referred to in the pages of the treaty, agree to consult each other on a regular basis so as to reach a common position on all matters of common interest. In particular, emphasis is put on the Mediterranean basin as an area of utmost geopolitical relevance for both countries. The agreement mentions irregular immigration, sources of energy, peace and human rights preservation as some of the reasons why both Parties wish to closely collaborate in the region. Besides, the need for reinforced relations with countries in the North African, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa regions is reiterated in section 4 of Article 1, most likely calling for closer cooperation for delicate situations not mentioned explicitly such as the Libyan crisis.
An entire article is dedicated to European affairs, Article 3. Once again, the need for the development of a European autonomous strategic role is mentioned, reiterating its cruciality in worldwide politics and especially in the context of NATO, as expressed in the article on security and defence. Perhaps more interestingly, the last part of the European affairs section is dedicated to the joint effort of pushing towards a more frequent use of the qualified majority voting system in the European Council. Vetoes often hinder the implementation of reforms and make the Council’s decision-making process more rigid, which is a potential obstacle to the various changes favoured by France and Italy in this treaty. What’s more, reforms such as a renewed European immigration policy, wished by both countries, could be approved quickly and more easily.
As far as immigration is concerned, the treaty stresses the need for cooperation not only on a European level but particularly between France and Italy. Cross-border police cooperation is mentioned on multiple occasions throughout Article 4, even though its details remain to be determined for the most part. The agreement is limited to the listing of initiatives both Parties decided to support, such as the creation of a specific Franco-Italian auxiliary police force. Despite being dealt with only in a general way, the theme of immigration is dear to both countries and it is particularly significant that they reached an agreement on the matter of cross-border police cooperation.
Italian Prime Minister Draghi, Italian President Mattarella, and French President Macron after the Treaty was signed - Source: Quirinale
As for the economic implications of the agreement, great emphasis is put on the industry sector. The two Parties agreed to foster the creation of a solid European industrial policy, capable of reinforcing European enterprises’ competitiveness globally. Furthermore, both countries wish to work towards stronger European energy independence, so as to avoid, or at least decrease, the risk of energy crises in the EU. In particular, bilateral industrial cooperation is to be facilitated, by making it easier for small and medium-sized firms to make use of public funds or projects, as well as simplifying economic operations or close collaboration between Italian and French companies, especially when it can contribute to the reinforcement of strategic value chains.
Some of the most interesting terms of the treaty are contained in Article 6, which deals with social development. For instance, in section 1 both Parties acknowledge the importance of ensuring that all workers enjoy appropriate working conditions and, most notably, receive just compensation, thanks to the guarantee of “adequate minimum wages”. Even though no concrete measure is described in this section, which only mentions the two Parties highlighting the importance of these social issues, it is significant that Italy, which has no minimum wage by law, officially recognized it as an important social instrument.
Finally, the last couple of articles mainly deal with culture and society. As for research and education, Italy and France agreed to make their education systems more similar to each other to facilitate student mobility, as well as to further develop the already existing ESABAC programme, which allows Italian students to achieve a French graduation diploma and, conversely, French students to obtain the Italian diploma. Furthermore, they committed to fostering cultural exchanges, making the Italians more acquainted with the French culture and vice versa, and creating a Franco-Italian volunteering programme.
In conclusion, the Quirinal treaty marks an important milestone in the history of French-Italian relations, bringing the two nations closer than ever. Despite the bilateral nature of the treaty, however, it does not overshadow the European Union. On the contrary, as it has emerged from the analysis of the agreement’s contents, the EU as a whole, rather than the two countries considered separately, is taken into account and the need for its reinforcement as an institution and geopolitical player in global politics is stressed on innumerable occasions in the various articles. For these reasons, it is plausible to believe that the Quirinal treaty will have a positive impact not only on France and Italy but also on the entire European Union.