Italy’s Renewed Approach to Foreign, Security and Defense Policy

About a month has passed since the formation of the new Italian government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The foreign debut of the new government took place in the context of a tight international schedule, including the COP27 and G20 summits, which allowed the Italian Prime Minister to take advantage of this by securing several bilateral meetings within these forums.

In Bali, Meloni met with US President Joe Biden, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping in a briefing-only format (Tg24.sky.it, November 15). Prior to that, the Italian Prime Minister visited Brussels on his first foreign visit and met with high-level members of the European Union. Afterwards, he welcomed the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg in Rome, reaffirming Italy’s commitment to the alliance.

The chronology and congenial tone underpinning this itinerary were intended to contradict some assumptions of Italian foreign policy of “Magyarization” (“Hungarianization”) towards Rome’s NATO and EU partners. and isolated (Euractiv, September 16). But thanks to Meloni’s public diplomacy efforts, the new government has already taken decisions that reflect Rome’s overall approach to foreign, defense and security policy, largely in line with the old government’s approach, and adding a number of new efforts.

Following a parliamentary and public debate on December 1, the Italian government agreed to provide military aid to Ukraine until the end of 2023, without requiring another parliamentary vote. It is an extension of the previous government’s February 25 resolution, which has been amended variously throughout the year, announcing a swift response to Russia’s renewed aggression in Ukraine, which would have expired at the end of this year had it not been extended (RaiNews, December 2).

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The expansion has far more political implications than its obvious technical content, and has been repeatedly pushed by Meloni’s party and supported by other governing majorities. However, the opposition, which includes former prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s Five Star Movement, a small coalition of Greens and a handful of far-left parties, strongly opposes the measure. In fact, Italy is still delivering parts of the fifth and final aid package approved by the February 25 legislation. The package’s contents, like all other “Ukraine Aid Orders,” are being kept secret because, a rarity among other security partners, Russia’s access to this sensitive information needs to be restricted. A list of what Italy delivered to Ukraine is available from open sources, but parts of it have been leaked to the press (La Repubblica, October 29; Ukrinform, December 6).

Furthermore, on December 1, Italy approved a resolution extending the participation of Italian military personnel in NATO’s Joint Task Force on Very High Readiness. In an interview with the Italian press, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crocetto expressed the government’s willingness to spend 2 percent of GDP on military spending, as required by NATO (Il Foglio, November 21).

Roman Russia remains unresolved, but should be viewed in terms of domestic security rather than foreign policy or Italy’s role in NATO. As the recent vote on aid to Ukraine shows, the current balance of power in the Italian parliament does not allow Italian-Russian relations to directly influence government decision-making.

However, the country suffers from the widespread penetration of Russian propaganda among the population and the presence of large numbers of Russian operatives in social and commercial “gray zones”. Country-level management of external threats to NATO facilities focuses primarily on law enforcement agencies established to counter domestic threats. While this arrangement is successful in deterring security breaches, it may be less effective in deterring and anticipating the activities of a foreign adversary, which is now a particular challenge (EDM, April 14, 2021; Kyiv Post, September 1- see). To this end, it is recommended that the reforms of the Italian intelligence services remain largely untouched since the most recent reform in 2007 (Formiche, August 20, September 5).

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The sharp confrontation between Paris and Rome over immigration policy is noteworthy (Ansa.it, November 25). On November 26, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and French President Emmanuel Macron intervened to mark the one-year anniversary of the Quirinal Treaty, signed in 2021 to improve cooperation between the two countries. parties (La Repubblica, November 26; Governo.it, accessed December 4). However, some issues of interest between the two countries remain structurally conflicting, and it is hoped that each country can magnify the consensus that seems to have emerged in European public opinion on controversial issues such as immigration management. Push European partners to choose their side.

NATO is ready to intervene in the event of a major conflagration at the end of November 2022 due to the failure of Serbia and Kosovo to reach an agreement on the remaining “license plate” dispute (see EDM, 28 September 2021). -On November 23, Crosetto and Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani visited the two countries in hopes of brokering a constructive dialogue between the two sides. Belgrade and Pristina signed the agreement that night (Euractiv, November 23). Given the history of Italy’s presence in the region, the Balkan countries have waited in vain for Rome to act as a key mediator in the region’s relations with the EU, particularly in the accession process. within their own argument.

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Indeed, one month is a very short period of time to evaluate governance issues. But here are some features of the new Italian government. First of all, there was considerable continuity with the former government, as well as with Italy’s international historical position: Rome is and will remain in the Atlantic camp, and will retain its role as a founding member of NATO and the European Union. Furthermore, Italy shows a renewed focus on some important but neglected partners: the Balkans may be an example here. This is due to the desire to increase the independence of Italy in the implementation of its foreign policy: in the example of the same Balkans, Italy has managed to do what the EU as a whole has not been able to do. This is due to the fact that Italy was able and willing to develop its own relations with the region and used it to the benefit of the entire European community. Therefore, a preference for autonomy should not be seen as a sign of disenfranchisement, but rather as an additional creative tool when played in such a way.

A focus on defense and strategic aspects of cooperation with third countries has emerged and is expected to increase significantly. It lies in Rome’s willingness and ability to use its assets, of which military know-how and industrial capacity are the most important, and can provide a solid basis for expanding cooperation and building new partnerships.

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