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On 1 February 2023, the Quirinal Treaty, a bilateral treaty linking France and Italy, formally entered into force, after being signed on 26 November 2021, jointly by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the former Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi. This is therefore an important event for bilateral relations between France and Italy, but also globally for European diplomacy, in which the Franco-Italian relationship plays an essential role.

Neighbouring countries, geographically, historically, culturally related countries, builders of Europe: France and Italy are two friendly states, “cousins” as we say on both sides of the Alps. Two states whose bilateral relations, however, have not always been smooth. Let us remember, among other things, the moment of maximum tension reached in 2018, when the deputy prime minister of the first Conte government, Luigi Di Maio (Five Star movement), went to Paris to meet the leader of the gilets jaunes, a protest movement that appeared in France in 2018. Tensions escalated to the point where France decided to recall to Paris the French ambassador in Italy, Christian Masset: in short, it was a real diplomatic crisis. Yet France and Italy are linked by a long historical and political tradition, as well as by a geographical proximity that makes them necessarily in constant bilateral contact.

Analysing the European framework, we observe that Franco-German bilateral relations are regulated by two important treaties, the Elysée Treaty signed by French President De Gaulle and German Chancellor Adenauer in 1963, which was followed by the Aachen Treaty signed in 2019 by Macron and Merkel. Well, Franco-Italian bilateral cooperation precisely lacked a treaty, a text setting out common policies and common objectives, that go beyond political contingency, setting out structural objectives that do not depend on the fact that the political orientations of the Italian prime minister and of the French president are similar. This is why, on 26 November 2021, the Quirinal Treaty was signed in Rome, at the Palazzo del Quirinale (seat of the Italian Presidency of the Republic). Voted and approved by the Italian parliament in the summer of 2022 and by the French parliament in the autumn of 2022, the treaty formally entered into force last month, on 1 February 2023. But what is it all about?

The text consists of a preamble and twelve articles, which touch on the essential points of Franco-Italian diplomacy: foreign affairs, the economy, defence, culture, the environment, industry, schools, cross-border cooperation, and other nodal issues in the France-Italy relationship. Taking a few areas, we note that the two countries’ desire is to make cooperation, inter-ministerial meetings, and bilateralism no longer just a contingent practice, but a real structural programme.

For example, on the defence issue, the treaty provides for the relaunch of the Franco-Italian Security and Defence Council, regular meetings between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries. In the economic sphere, an annual economic concertation forum between France and Italy is planned, bringing together the ministers of Economy and Finance of the two countries to develop a common and coordinated economic strategy.

Among the many interesting points of the treaty are those concerning young people, school, university, and the possibilities of exchanges between the two countries. This is an essential issue, that shows that France and Italy recognise the importance of youth policies, they recognise the need to bring French and Italian youth closer together, to foster exchanges between the two, from a European perspective. Among the measures envisaged to implement this bilateral youth cooperation policy we find: the strengthening of a joint Franco-Italian civil service, the creation of a Franco-Italian Youth Council, the implementation of the Esabac addresses, the high schools that allow students to obtain, at the end of their course, both the Italian maturità and the French baccalauréat (high school diploma). In addition to these measures, there is the desire to encourage mobility and exchanges during the university course, the possibility of undertaking Franco-Italian double degree courses, the financing of joint research projects, and cooperation between doctoral schools. There are two articles of the treaty in which young people play a leading role, Article 8 and Article 9, devoted respectively to “Education and training, research and innovation” and “Culture, youth and civil society”, whose starting point is the awareness of a historical affinity linking French and Italian civil societies, which must be strengthened with a view to a common European membership.

If, therefore, the Quirinal Treaty aims at the solidification of the France-Italy bilateral relationship, it would, however, be wrong to consider that its function is limited to bilateralism. In fact, the France-Italy relationship plays a key role in European diplomacy, it is a pillar of the very balance of the European Union. Read in this light, the treaty contributes to a common and shared will to go further, not only in the relations that bind these two countries related by history, language, and culture, but also in the European project itself, in its unity and in its strengthening: this is what the entry into force of the Quirinal Treaty, on 1 February 2023, gives hope for.

📸 credit: www.Wikipedia.org