Italy and France sign “historic” treaty

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Rome (AFP) – France and Italy on Friday drew a line on recent tensions and signed a new treaty to formalize their relations, against the backdrop of a changing European Union.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi put their pen to the Quirinal Palace of President Sergio Mattarella.

An aerial acrobatics demonstration by the air forces of the two countries followed.

During a press conference, the leaders of the two Mediterranean powers long linked by historical, cultural and linguistic links underlined their proximity but also their common commitment to the enlarged European project.

Draghi called it a “historic moment”, which “intends to promote and accelerate the process of European integration”.

Macron said the treaty “seals a deep friendship.”

“Founding countries of the EU … we defend a more integrated, more democratic, more sovereign Europe”, he added.

The treaty was signed just weeks before France took over the rotating EU presidency in January, and at a time of change on the continent.

Britain’s disorderly exit and feuds between the EU’s liberal democracies and their eastern neighbors rocked the bloc, as its de facto leader German Chancellor Angela Merkel finally bows out after the September elections.

The so-called Qurinal Treatise is broad, covering economy and industry, culture and education, security, cross-border cooperation, and foreign affairs.

Macron noted that the two countries had had “difficult times,” likely a reference to a diplomatic crisis in early 2019 when the populist-era Italian government openly criticized the French president.

Ties improved with a new government in Rome later that year and grew stronger with the coming to power earlier this year of Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank.

Draghi thanked Macron for handing over former members of the far-left group of the Red Brigades who terrorized Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. Their decades-long refuge in France was a long-standing source of tension.

Italy has also sparked latent irritation at the feelings left by European allies over the tens of thousands of migrants from North Africa who arrive on its shores each year.

Draghi said the two sides agreed on the need for a common EU policy on migration and asylum.

Macron then had a private audience with Pope Francis, with a child abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church in France.

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