Italy, France deepen economic, defense cooperation

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, including such areas as defense, aerospace and technology.

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 sectors 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.

The two countries also signed an agreement on space launchers that will increase European competitiveness, consolidating Italian-French cooperation for future Ariane 6 and Vega 6 launchers, according to a separate statement.

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.

Macron also met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for an hour, and gave him two biographies of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of Francis’ Jesuit order, the Vatican said.

Macron’s office, which noted the audience was only scheduled for 30 minutes, said the two men discussed the need to ensure vaccine distribution to all, climate change, migration and the situation in Lebanon, among other topics.

The talks pointed to “a true convergence of views both on global challenges and on regional crises threatening to destabilize the rest of the world,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.