The relationship between France and Italy is very active, as fitting given the cooperation between these two major neighbouring partners which are EU founding members and have close economic, cultural and historical ties. Bilateral cooperation sees an annual summit, which was enshrined in Rome in February 1982.
The 34th bilateral summit held in Lyon on 27 September 2017 aimed to give fresh impetus to the French-Italian relationship by marking the shared desire to strengthen French-Italian relations at bilateral, European and multilateral levels. The converging views between the two States enabled the adoption of eight ministerial road maps for concrete projects.
Bilateral political contacts on international crises, European issues, and economic and cultural issues take place on a very regular basis. The President of the Italian Republic, Mr Sergio Mattarella, was received in Paris by the French President on 30 March 2015. Like his predecessor, the President of the Italian Council of Ministers, Giuseppe Conti chose to make France his first bilateral visit after taking office, on 15 June 2018. The French President made a bilateral visit to Italy on 11 January 2018. The two governments also meet regularly as members of the European Union, NATO, the G7 and other ad hoc formats, including the 5+5 Dialogue which held its last foreign affairs meeting in Malta on 18 January 2019, and MED7, the last meeting of which was held in Cyprus on 29 January 2019.
President Mattarella visited Chambord and Amboise in France on 2 May 2019 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. He is set to return to France in the second half of 2019 for a state visit, at the invitation of the President of the Republic.
France and Italy are major trading partners. With global trade totalling €76.6 billion in 2017, France is the second-largest customer and supplier of Italy, whereas Italy is France’s third-largest customer and supplier. France has a structural trade deficit with Italy, which is its fourth-largest globally. The trade deficit (not including energy) has, however, been falling since 2015, mainly due to the larger increase in French exports to Italy than in Italian exports to France. The trade deficit stood at €7.3 billion in 2017, excluding energy products. France is the leading investor in Italy, with a foreign direct investment stock of €66.6 billion at the end of 2017, while Italy is France’s eighth-largest investor with a stock of €21.5 billion at the end of 2016. There are almost 1,200 Italian subsidiaries in France, employing almost 88,000 people. The 2017 French-Italian Summit in Lyon included a large economic and industrial section particularly when it comes to naval matters, with the conclusion of a balanced agreement on the shareholders of STX France and the launch of work to create an alliance in the military naval sector between Fincantieri and Naval Group.
France and Italy have long-standing, intense cultural relations. These are supported by prestigious institutions such as the Villa Medici, the French School in Rome and the Jean Bérard Centre in Naples. Our teaching network includes six schools. and there are some 30 Alliance Française branches. French is the second most-studied language in Italy behind English. An agreement regarding the award of dual high school diplomas (French Baccalaureate and the Esame di Stato), called ESABAC, was signed in 2009 and effectively promotes bilingual and bicultural education in Italy. The programme was expanded to the technological field in 2016. A Franco-Italian University (UFI) was created in 1998. In the scientific field, France and Italy have developed space cooperation built around an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2007.
Cross-border relations between France and Italy are dominated by issues of transport and infrastructure, very often addressed in the framework of programmes co-financed by the European Union. Several major cross-border cooperation projects are emblematic of the bilateral relationship, including the Mont-Blanc Tunnel between Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (Haute-Savoie, France) and Valle d’Aosta (Italy), the Fréjus Tunnel between Modane (France) and Bardonecchia (Italy), and the future high-speed railway line between Lyon and Turin. This is a very ambitious project in terms of the bilateral relationship (elimination of the Alpine border) and in terms of European integration (development of the southern corridor), the environment (alternative means of transport) and the economy.
Updated: 10 April 2019