The Renzi government has pursued two main and interconnected objectives within the EU: the defence and promotion of Italy’s role, not least in response to the ever-looming risk of marginalization; and the creation of new forms of integration and solidarity among member states, particularly in such sectors as the economy and migration, where vital national interests are at stake. However, Italy continues to find itself in a position of inherent weakness due to a series of persistent structural problems including massive public debt and a fragile banking system. There have been unprecedentedly sharp tensions with the European Commission and Germany on Italy’s compliance with the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact and other fiscal rules. In parallel, the Renzi government has continued to demand a redefinition of the EU’s economic priorities and strategy that, in addition to a greater flexibility on national budgetary policies, would allow for broader risk sharing and a more effective anti-cyclic effort at the European level. It has also advanced a number of proposals on migration, calling for a real collective management of the refugee crisis based on the principles of solidarity and a more equitable burden sharing. However, on both fronts – migration and economic policy – most of the reform plans have been frozen or remained a dead letter. This has contributed to fuelling anti-EU sentiments among the Italian public. The Renzi government has tried to cultivate preferential relations with Germany and France but a big three format is unlikely to consolidate into a group capable of providing effective leadership at the EU level given the growing complexities of the diplomatic game within the EU. In fact, the advancement of a credible reform agenda requires a broader agreement among Eurozone members.
Translation of “Ruolo e posizioni in Europa”, published as chapter 1.1 in Ettore Greco and Natalino Ronzitti (eds.), Rapporto sulla politica estera italiana: il governo Renzi. Edizione 2016, Roma, Nuova Cultura, July 2016, p. 13-19 (Quaderni IAI 17).
1. In search of a more prominent role
2. Push for EU reform
3. Focus on the Mediterranean
4. The differentiation challenge