by Thomas Fazi
Friday, 26
November 2021
Reaction
07:00

Macron’s predatory deal with Draghi

France is exploiting the newly signed Quirinale Treaty for its own ends
by Thomas Fazi
France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Credit: Getty

French president Emmanuel Macron will be in Rome today to sign an “enhanced cooperation treaty” — known as the Quirinale Treaty — between France and Italy. The problem is that, here in Italy, outside of Mario Draghi’s inner circle, no one knows the content of the treaty. That includes the Italian parliament, which will be called to rubber stamp the deal only after it’s been signed by the two leaders.

The whole thing is shrouded in the utmost secrecy. Indeed, most people weren’t even aware of the existence of such a deal until a few days ago. The little that we do know about the treaty is that Macron first suggested it in 2017, with talks starting in early 2018 with then-Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, the current EU economy commissioner. The deal was then put on stand-by following the creation, later that year, of Italy’s “populist” coalition government between the Five Star Movement and the League, which clashed with France over several issues, from immigration to Libya to the Five Star Movement’s expression of support for the French yellow vest movement, Macron’s arch-enemy.

It was then revived under the second Conte government before it was fast-tracked under former ECB president Mario Draghi at the helm of government, earlier this year.

Given the recent history of French-Italian relations, which haven’t exactly been on an equal footing, the clandestine nature of this deal is not surprising. It’s an open secret that France has historically exhibited a rather predatory attitude, in economic terms, towards its southern neighbour. In the past 15 years alone, French corporations have bought out around 350 Italian companies for a total value of almost 50 billion euros. These include household names in fashion, food and financial sectors such as Bulgari, Fendi, Gucci, BNL, Galbani, Invernizzi, Locatelli and many others.

France’s latest masterstroke has been the creation of Stellantis, born from the fusion of France’s Groupe PSA with Fiat Chrysler, which has effectively put the Italian carmaker under French management. More recently, tensions have emerged surrounding a possible sale of a part of Italy’s defence giant Leonardo to Franco-German consortium KNDS.

No wonder, then, that last year an Italian parliamentary committee for national security even warned against “a growing and planned presence of economic and financial operators of French origin in our economy”, which could result in industrial decisions against national interests.

Meanwhile, France’s establishment hasn’t been especially forthcoming when its own national heavyweights have been at stake: in 2017, when the Italian Fincantieri won the tenders for the majority of the French shipyard STX, Macron ripped up the tenders and temporarily nationalised the company to stop it from falling into Italian hands. This episode is revealing of the French establishment’s zeal in defending its national interest — a zeal that is all but absent in its Italian counterpart.

Italian politicians are not new to this kind of servile attitude towards France. That several of the most prominent members of the Democratic Party (PD) — including its current secretary, Enrico Letta — have been awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit, is telling. Indeed, Letta — dubbed “the Frenchman” by his critics — also has (had) stakes in several French companies.

In light of the above, many people question what the consequences of the treaty for Italian industry will be. But even on other issues, such as foreign policy (take Libya) and immigration, the two countries’ interests have often been divergent, if not outright conflicting. It thus seems highly unlikely that the treaty will give rise to a new French-Italian axis capable of acting “in the common interest” of the two countries and maybe even rebalancing German hegemony in Europe, as some commentators have argued.

It appears much more likely, given the power relations between the two countries, that the treaty will simply serve to entrench Italy’s subsumption into France’s sphere of influence, and further erode what little sovereignty Italy has left. As Roberto Napoletano, former editor of the Italian business newspaper Sole 24 Orewrote in 2017: “In international circles, the prevailing political reasoning takes for granted that the French want to conquer the north of Italy and perhaps let the south become a large tent city for immigrants from all over the world”. There’s no reason to believe that has changed.

Update: the draft of the deal has now been published.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 months ago

No, I think the nature of the treaty is now symbolic. Macron has been pretty open about his ambitions to replace Merkel as the de facto head of Europe. Even though this has never been said expressly, his actions clearly point that way.
But, oh dear, the European public don’t seem to want to be lead by him – possibly put off by the abrasive attitude, France’s constant tendency to pursue its own interests at all times and try to “Europeanise” its own national issues to gain more clout…what a nuisance public opinion can be!
Draghi is a far more sensible proposition if we’re talking about Merkel’s successor. Nevermind about his politics: he is just older, more mature, calmer. And has the kind of gravitas (politically, emotionally) required to make people want to follow him and listen to what he has to say.
The reawakening of this treaty is basically Macron understanding that he’s not getting the leadership role he was really after – but trying to muscle in on the game anyway by publicly cosying up to the true heir to the throne. Smarmy so-and-so.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
10 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I agree – he is smarmy and yucky. Why don’t the voters see this?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

None of my French friends like him – the level of dislike ranges from a bit of a wrinkle of the nose at the mention of his name to full-on bile-spewing hatred. But I the mood among them right now seems to be that he’s still the best of a bad, uninspiring bunch in the upcoming election.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
10 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I suspect your last sentence could used in many many countries at the moment …

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
10 months ago

I once worked for six months in Italy without once leaving the country. So that meant weekends and public holidays. But I did use the time to travel all over the country, although I was working in the Deep South. Just like the UK, there is a huge North/South divide which can’t be overstated.
The ‘tent cities for immigrants’ comment says it all. The North of the country wants to be European but the South wants to be Italian. So any politician can’t represent both parts properly. In the UK our politicians focus on the South, which perhaps is more European but the North just wants parity with the South.

John Riordan
John Riordan
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“The North of the country wants to be European but the South wants to be Italian.”

For a narrow definition of “European”, that is, which refers to how europhiles – or EU-philes – describe the character of Europe.

John Hicks
John Hicks
10 months ago

No wonder the AUKUS caused such a raucous merely adopting the only strategy capable of defeating French intrigue:- get the deal down BEFORE they find out.

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
10 months ago

Wrong, Macron ripped the deal because it went against the interests of the Swiss Italian shipping group MSC who was a major client of STX .It just happened that Macron’s closest advisor and actual “ secrétaire général de l’Élysée “ ( Chief of staff) Alexis Kholer is closely related to the Aponte family the majority shareholders of said shipping group and that he was working on matters linked to STX while being a high level civil servant in the ministry of economy when Macron was minister and then left to work for MSC before joining Macron’ s presidential campaign and staff . A legal action is on going in France on this case

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
9 months ago

I thought bilateral treaties between member states were forbidden by the EU?

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
9 months ago

Forbidden only if their subject or part of the treaty covers a competence delegated to the EU. Considering the ECJ’s generous interpretation in favour of the EU of competences (either exclusive or shared ) and of the principle of sincere cooperation one cannot exclude that this treaty could contain some elements of EU competences, this would be an interesting case. The same applies to treaties with non EU states and international organisations meaning that when the EU extends its competences the EU Member States must denounce in full or in part existing bilateral or multilateral treaties.