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Italy, France deepen strategic ties as Merkel’s exit tests Europe

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Italy and France signed a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties and reinforce their coordination within Europe, at a time when EU diplomacy is being tested by the departure of Germany’s Angela Merkel, according to Reuters.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron put their names to the new pact in Rome’s Quirinale Palace. 

“The treaty marks a historic moment in relations between our two countries. France and Italy are further consolidating our diplomatic, commercial, political and cultural ties,” Draghi told reporters.

The signing ceremony came days after a new coalition pact was agreed in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged especially close ties with successive French leaders.

The new Berlin administration is expected to be more inward-looking, especially at the start of its mandate and both Paris and Rome are keen to deepen relations in a period clouded by economic uncertainty, the pandemic, a more assertive Russia, a rising China and a more disengaged United States.

Macron said the Quirinale Treaty named for the Roman residence of the Italian president, did not challenge French relations with Germany, but was complementary and aimed at boosting all of Europe.

Amongst the goals laid out in the 15-page document was a pledge to reinforce military connections, even at an industrial level, and work in tandem to enhance Europe’s defence capabilities.

“The objective we are following is to have a stronger and more sovereign Europe. A Europe that knows how to protect its borders and defend itself,” stated Macron.