‘The latest privatization in the generalized undoing of Europe’

‘The latest privatization in the generalized undoing of Europe’

Italy and France have signed a pact for greater cooperation on various issues, the so-called ‘Trattato del Quirinale’, a name chosen to evoke the Elysée Treaty which, in 1963, brought France and Germany closer together. The bilateral agreement aims to consolidate relations between Paris and Rome, and in the intentions of the leaders, it serves to favor the process of European integration.

“The enhanced cooperation treaty signed this morning marks a historic moment in relations between Italy and France. From today, we are even closer” said the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron after the signing of the Treaty. And also: “We, Italy and France, share much more than borders, our history, our art, our economies and our society have been intertwined for some time. The institutions that we have the honor of representing are based on the same republican values, on respect for human and civil rights, on Europeanism.”

There are numerous bilateral issues referred to in the ‘Trattato del Quirinale’: from European and international politics – with particular attention to the Mediterranean and Africa, fundamental for their geographical position and strategic interests of both countries – defense, security , economy, industry, space, ecological and digital transition, culture, youth.

In practice, from now on, Italy and France will consult periodically – even before any European Council – to determine a common agenda, and will hold a bilateral government summit every year, as was the case regularly before the profound crisis between Rome and Paris at the time of Conte I government and then Covid.

French President Emmanuel Macron underlines the geopolitical repercussions: “We will create a common geopolitical vision: we share the European and international vision, we will contribute to building a stronger common European defense that contributes to NATO, we will have strengthened cooperation in the fight against illegal migration and traffickers, to protect Europe’s external borders”. He then affirmed as the Italian counterpart that this Treaty “establishes the deep friendship that unites us”.

Behind the official propaganda

But going beyond the official statements, there is much more at play.

The Treaty was first proposed by Macron in 2017, then, shortly after, at the beginning of 2018, talks began with the then Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, now European Commissioner for the economy. The agreement was then put on standby following the birth of the yellow-green government (Movimento 5 Stelle + Lega), which clashed with France on various issues, from immigration to Libya to relations between the Movimento Cinque Stelle and movement of the yellow vests. The talks then resumed under the Conte II government, to undergo a decisive acceleration with the arrival of Mario Draghi at Palazzo Chigi at the beginning of this year.

At this point, the main purpose of the Treaty can be deduced from its timing: it was concluded when, with the departure of the German Chancellor Merkel, new relations of power were being established in the European Union. France, which in 2022 assumes the six-month presidency of the EU, replaces the Paris-Rome axis for the Paris-Berlin axis. Central to the bilateral agreement is Art. 2 relating to ‘Security and Defense’, consisting of 7 paragraphs. Italy and France are committed to “strengthening the capabilities of the Europe of Defense, thus also working towards the consolidation of the European pillar of NATO”. As Draghi underlined in harmony with Washington, “a true European defense must be built, which of course is complementary to NATO, not a substitute: a stronger Europe makes a stronger NATO”. To meet the expenses both in NATO and in Defense Europe, a colossal increase in Italian military spending will be necessary, which already today exceeds 70 million euros a day.

Article 2 again states that Italy and France undertake to “facilitate the transit and stationing of the armed forces of the other Party on their own territory”, without specifying for what purpose, and to coordinate their participation in “international missions for the management of crisis”, particularly in the Mediterranean, the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea.

But this is not just about defense. With the Treaty, France, also considering the balance of power between Rome and Paris, aims to consolidate its influence on Italy. On the other hand, the unequivocally predatory attitude of Paris towards Italy is well known. Suffice it to say that, in the last fifteen years alone, acquisitions of Italian companies by French companies have been increasing, for a total value of almost 50 billion euros, placing France at the top of the list of countries that have been ‘shopping’ in Italy. The hundreds of prestigious companies and brands – in the fields of fashion, transport, telecommunications, food, heavy industry, energy, finance – passed into French hands in recent years include Acqua di Parma, Bulgari, Fendi, Loro Piana, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Pomellato, Richard Ginori, Sergio Rossi, BNL, Cariparma, Edison, Eridania, Galbani, Invernizzi, Locatelli and many others.

And let us not forget the creation of Stellantis, a company born from the merger of FCA and the French PSA, which has effectively put the Italian-American car company under French management (including the French state, which continues to hold an important stake in Peugeot). While returning to the defense sector, the Franco-German joint venture KNDS made an offer to buy Leonardo’s defense systems division. That France considers Italy “its stuff” is also demonstrated by Vivendi’s efforts to maintain control of TIM from the assault of the Americans of KKR.

Last year, the Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic denounced the “growing and planned presence of economic and financial operators of French origin in our economic, banking, insurance and financial fabric, as well as [the] strong interrelationships between industrial and economic italian entities and the aforementioned operators», and expressed his «concern regarding the fact that this aspect, hypothetically, could also determine strategies, actions and attitudes that are not always in line with national economic needs”.

In the meantime, however, France did not let its companies end up in Italian hands: in 2017, following the acquisition by Fincantieri of the majority stake in the STX shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France, Macron “temporarily” nationalized the construction site to prevent it from falling under the control of Fincantieri. This episode is indicative of how the French establishment is “pro-European” in words but in fact defends its national interests with determination.

Which certainly cannot be said of the Italian ruling class. Suffice it to say that in the same year in which Paolo Gentiloni started negotiations for the ‘Trattato del Quirinale’ he nearly ratified another treaty – the Treaty of Caen, then repudiated at the last moment after the opposition protested – he had allegedly ceded to France an important portion of Italian territorial waters.

A servile attitude towards Paris which is not a novelty for certain Italian politics. It is perhaps no coincidence that many prominent members of the Democratic Party – including its current secretary, Enrico Letta – have been awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor. Letta – nicknamed “the Frenchman” not by chance – also has (and has had in the past) very close relationships with numerous French companies.

For these reasons, the consequences of this Treaty raise many concerns for the future of Italian industry, as well as for other issues. Starting with foreign policy where Italy and France have very divergent interests, as in Libya and in the Mediterranean in general.

So it is likely that the agreement will serve to sanction the definitive incorporation of Italy into the sphere of influence of France, with the loss of residual Italian sovereignty. As the journalist Roberto Napoletano, former director of the economic newspaper ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’ wrote in 2017: “In international circles, the prevailing political reasoning assumes that the French want to conquer the North of Italy and maybe let the South become a large tent city for immigrants from all over the world”.

Italy tied hand and foot to France

A harsh judgment on the Treaty signed between Italy and France, where Rome succumbs, is given by Professor Alessandro Mangia, professor of constitutional law at the Catholic University of Milan interviewed by the newspaper Italia Oggi.

“We will be tied hand and foot to France in the position of subordinate partners”, he said.

The professor further explained: “The announcement of the signing of a treaty whose text has not been seen by anyone, which cannot be talked about, but which is known to be signed in any case, is a very pure eighteenth century. Except that the French eighteenth century is the Sun King and the Revolution. The Italian was the Marchese del Grillo. With that we already have the substance of the treaty”.

The repercussions will be evident: “We will be tied hand and foot to France in the position of subordinate partners. Italy and France have always had different political classes. Which express various presidents of the Republic. And several prime ministers. So much so that in France they are called by their surname or president. Here Mario”. With a fairly clear balance of power: “It seems to me that this says everything about the balance of power that underlies the treaty. Mario and the Magician is an excellent story by Thomas Mann; he was European and not pro-European. Is there a difference, do you know? In Italy we have been full of pro-Europeans with the Legion of Honor since 1992, who founded a party and have continued their pro-European work ever since”.

Ultimately, the treaty represents “the latest privatization in the generalized undoing of Europe”.

In short, even if the ruling political class in Italy strives to make the Treaty appear as the formalization of a deep and lasting friendship that evolves and strengthens in a strengthened bilateral cooperation, the facts speak clearly as we have seen. More than the symbol of the “new” post-pandemic Europe, this deadly embrace with France could mark the definitive decline of Italy. Of every hypothesis of independence and residual sovereignty.

As already stated on previous occasions, Italy urgently needs a totally different policy. A far-sighted policy, which has the courage to break the European cage to abandon a declining Euro-Atlantic order and embrace the new multipolar Eurasian order without hesitation.

Fabrizio Verde

Journalist and geopolitics analyst.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


December 2022