The Irish Times view on a new French-Italian treaty: finding common cause

Paris and Rome have overcome recent tensions over migration

The signing this week of a new friendship treaty between France and Italy reflects what may become a significant permanent shift in the internal political dynamics of the EU and a subtle counterbalance to German predominance. The Quirinal Treaty, promising closer collaboration on everything from foreign policy to defence and culture, is akin to that signed between France and Germany in 1963, and marks the overcoming of a recently troubled relationship fed by clashes over immigration to the EU. The nadir saw the recall to Paris of the French ambassador in Rome in February 2019.

The rapprochement has been made possible largely through the warmer relationship between France's president Emannuel Macron and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, who has overcome nationalist objections from his right-wing League allies.

The alliance, observers say, may facilitate a post-pandemic reform of the fiscal disciplinary structure at the heart of the EU, the Stability and Growth Pact, which aims to limit government deficits and debt and is currently suspended because of Covid. France and Italy want to see an easing of the rules in the face of opposition particularly from fiscal conservatives like Austria, Finland and the Netherlands. The Rome-Paris axis, both sides claim, has already borne fruit in the shaping of the massive Covid recovery package and in the Franco-Italian initiative, together with seven other member-states, on a groundbreaking common debt instrument for the union.

However, the pact is unlikely to remove all tensions between the two states, notably on the business front. The mooted sale, for example, of an Italian weapons-maker owned by state-controlled defence group Leonardo to a French rival is being challenged within the Italian government. Critics say Italy would in effect help France get rid of an important competitor in arms manufacturing while putting Italian jobs at risk.


France is Italy’s leading investor and the third largest home of Italian subsidiaries. Both are each others’ second largest trading partners.