Italy, France deepen economic, defense cooperation

International

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi sign the Franco-Italian Quirinal Treaty next to Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, second left, and Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, right, at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Alberto Pizzoli / Pool photo via AP)

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi said that a bilateral treaty signed on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron to strengthen bilateral cooperation would in turn strengthen the European Union, in such areas as defense.

The treaty deepens cooperation “in crucial sectors, from security to justice, from research to industry,’’ Draghi told a press conference.

That includes spending to create “a true European defense” that Draghi said “obviously is complementary to NATO” and doesn’t substitute the alliance.

“To be sovereign, Europe needs to know how to defend its borders. We need to create a real defense,” he said.

Draghi also cited the intent to strengthen investments in such key areas as semiconductors, as the global supply chain is hard hit by shortages from Asia, as well as in more sustainable energy sources, as countries seek to slow the pace of global warming.

Macron said the agreement does not substitute France’s longtime friendship with Germany, which has been considered key to economic prosperity and security in postwar Europe. But he said the two friendships are different.

“In France, we say that when things get complicated with Germany, we turn toward Italy,” Macron said.

Among the treaty’s provisions is the creation of a Franco-Italian civil service and operation center to support law enforcement. In addition, a minister from one country will attend a Cabinet meeting of the other every three months.

“Beyond consolidating bilateral relations, the agreement intends to encourage and accelerate the process of European integration,’’ Draghi said.

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