Morality and Law
Italy Returns to Europe

Europe has become a rallying point for both the right and the left in the new government, including the Eurosceptics. Both flanks say they want a stronger voice in Europe and European institutions. With the arrival of the Mario Draghi cabinet, the two pillars of Italian foreign policy — Europeanism and Atlanticism — can be expected to receive strong support, writes Valdai Club expert Elena Maslova.

In Italy, a government of national unity has been formed, headed by 73-year-old former ECB President Mario Draghi. “Unity is not a choice, it is a duty,” he said, swearing in the new government. The “man who saved the euro”, as he is called, took two rounds of consultations to form a government and find common ground with both the right and the left, and even with the Eurosceptics.

Thus, the new government simultaneously included technocrats and representatives of all parliamentary parties, except the small “Brothers of Italy” party lead by Georgia Meloni. The result was the same “hodgepodge” (il governo minestrone), against which the leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, spoke so zealously. Against this background, Meloni has defended her principled position, declaring: “I can look my voters in the eye.” Indeed, the de facto nationwide election campaign is beginning to gain momentum — the Draghi government is destined for a relatively short life — in 2023 Italy will face planned parliamentary elections.

Draghi’s biggest challenge is managing the funds received from the European Union for economic recovery. Priority areas of the new government will be: vaccination, the labour market, economic growth, education, and the environment. Greening and digitalisation (issues of high-speed Internet and cashless payments, 5G and artificial intelligence, as well as the digitalisation of the public sector) are two big topics that the Italian government intends to develop especially diligently (the corresponding new ministerial posts have been introduced).

In general, we can say that hopes for the future reconstruction of Italy are inextricably linked with the European Union and the process of European integration.

Europe has become a rallying point for both the right and the left in the new government, including the Eurosceptics.

Both flanks say they want a stronger voice in Europe and European institutions. Matteo Salvini, who carries the banner of Euroscepticism in Italy, stands for a “soft” Euroscepticism (according to the classical typology of P. Taggart and A. Shcherbyak). He does not call for withdrawal from the Union and he does not oppose the EU as a project, but opposes the established principles and management practices (in particular in the area of migration policy). Thus, all political forces are interested in Italy having a stronger voice in Europe.

After the oath ceremony of the government, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron almost unanimously expressed that their countries, together with Italy, are ready to build a stronger Europe. For Italy, this opens up great political prospects, in particular, the opportunity to take the now vacant seat in the “European troika”. The figure of Draghi, whom everyone knows, seems to be the most appropriate and allows Italians to hope for an increase in weight in the pan-European context. In addition, Draghi has good connections with members of the current administration of Joe Biden, which allows us to speak about a stable line of Atlanticism, which will be inherent in the new cabinet.

Mario Draghi marks not only the final “return of Italy to Europe”, but also the “return to normality” — the idea that it is important for the nation to look dignified in the eyes of European colleagues. The personality factor in politics is particularly relevant, with Italy being the host country of the Group of Twenty this year, as well as co-chairing (together with the UK) the COP26 global climate forum.

As for Russian-Italian relations, this will mean, first of all, that when developing its foreign policy approach towards Russia, Italy’s opinion will more closely coincide with that of Brussels. In other words, it will become one of the main agents of European Union policy.

In any case, for Italy, relations with Russia are not a foreign policy priority. Of course, Russia is not an “opponent”, as for some EU countries, but not a partner either. Italy perceives Russia as an important “interlocutor” (the Italian authorities use precisely the Italian word interlocutore), with whom they conduct a dialogue on a wide range of issues. It is gratifying that this dialogue is supported from both sides; even in the most acute moments of relations between Russia and the EU, Italy advocated dialogue, it has become one of the “mantras” of Italian foreign policy towards Russia.

However, more and more often Russia is mentioned by Italians (separated by commas) together with China. This deliberately emphasises the Italians’ perception of Russia and its system of values, which they see as more and more alien.

At the same time, Russia and China are two countries outside the framework of the “collective West” with which the Republic seeks to develop a special dialogue within the framework of the “middle power” concept (when the presence of links with the great powers makes it possible to strengthen its own authority).

Thus, with the arrival of the Mario Draghi cabinet, the two pillars of Italian foreign policy — Europeanism and Atlanticism — can be expected to receive strong support. At the same time, cooperation between Rome and Moscow will be carried out where it is possible, given the current pace and high level of dialogue. Taking into account the current political situation, the parties will most actively interact in the cultural and humanitarian sphere and through the dialogue of civil societies. For 2021-2022 it is planned to hold a cross Year of Museums in Russia and Italy.

Italy as Part of Russia-EU dialogue
Elena Maslova
After almost three months of consultations, Italy has its "yellow-green" government (the colors of the logos of the Five Star Movement and the League parties). For the first time ever, the government now includes Five Star representatives, who had previously been "barred" from ministerial seats. Eventually, the post of the Prime Minister was taken by Giuseppe Conte, a compromise figure originally advanced by the Five Stars and supported by the League, and later the country’s president.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.