France and Italy

Political relations

The relationship between France and Italy is very active, as fitting given the cooperation between these two major neighbouring partners who 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.

At the 34th bilateral summit held in Lyon on 27 September 2017, the President of the French Republic welcomed the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic accompanied by ten ministers. The final declaration gave new impetus to the French-Italian relationship by marking the shared desire to strengthen French-Italian relations at bilateral, European and multilateral level. A move towards converging views between the two States can be seen in eight recently adopted ministerial road maps containing tangible projects reflecting shared European ambition demonstrated by France and Italy.

The two countries also maintain close dialogue in the G20/G7 framework. Italy, which hosts the United Nations’ food and agriculture hub, hence plays an active role in promoting the issue of regulation of agricultural raw material prices. It also supports the key French priorities, particularly in terms of financial regulation and of strengthening the efficacy of the global institutional system. Italy remains highly committed to the informality of the G20 and to maintaining the key role of the G7, of which it held the Presidency in 2017 (


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. His predecessor, Mr Giorgio Napolitano made a State visit to France in November 2012.

The President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Paolo Gentiloni, like the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Angelino Alfano, chose France for their first visits abroad.

Meetings at political level are particularly abundant (Heads of State, Heads of government, ministers), especially when it comes to consultations on European issues. French authorities made a number of visits of French authorities to Italy when Italy held the Presidency of the G7 for the Summit of Heads of State and Government and thirteen ministerial meetings.

Economic relations

France and Italy are each other’s second-largest trading partner (with €68.1 billion in trade in 2016). The trade deficit (not including energy) has continued to improve since 2015 mainly due to the larger increase in French exports to Italy than Italian exports to France. At sectoral level, French exports of transport equipment to Italy posted an increase of 23.4% in 2016 in connection with incentive measures to modernize equipment introduced by the Italian Government. Exports of machines, metallurgical and metal products, computer, electronic and optical products and lastly electrical and household appliances have also contributed to France’s lower trade deficit with Italy. However, France’s trade surplus with regard to agricultural and agrifood products has continued to decrease due to the 8.3% increase in imports of Italian agricultural products.

Our trade deficit with Italy, standing at €6.4 billion in 2016, is our sixth-largest. France is the leading investor in Italy, apart from Luxembourg and the Netherlands, which are foreign investment platforms, with an FDI stock representing a fifth of total international investment in the country. Italy is the fifth-largest investor in France, behind the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. In total, there are almost 1,300 Italian subsidiaries in France, employing almost 80,000 people.

In Italy, French groups are as present in major retail (1,600 subsidiaries and 200,000 jobs) as in the energy and banking sectors. The energy sector accounts for about 10% of French investments. The service sector accounts for almost three-quarters of French FDI stocks in Italy, of which close to 30% for insurance and banks.

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.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France and Italy have long-standing, intense cultural relations. They are marked by major seasons in various artistic fields, including cinema, dance, theatre and music. Our work is supported by prestigious institutions such as the Villa Medici, the Ecole Française in Rome and the Jean Bérard Centre in Naples. The educational network comprises six schools, including the Lycée Chateaubriand in Rome. In addition, 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. In the academic field, a Franco-Italian University (UFI) was created in 1998 to promote exchanges of teachers and students, encourage initiatives of common interest in training and research, and facilitate access to international and community programmes for Franco-Italian cooperation actions.

In the scientific field, France and Italy have developed space cooperation built around an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2007.

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Cross-border cooperation

Cross-border relations between France and Italy are dominated by issues of transport and infrastructure, very often viewed 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 linking Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (Haute-Savoie) with Courmayeur (Aosta Valley), since 1965; the Fréjus Tunnel linking Modane (France) with Bardonecchia (Italy); and the planned rail link between Lyon and Turin, which was initiated in 1996. The intergovernmental agreement for the latter, enabling the launch of final work for the cross-border section, took effect on 1 March 2017. The Lyon-Turin rail link is currently the flagship project of our bilateral relationship. 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. The French-Italian Summit in Lyon in September 2017 confirmed the full commitment of the two parties in the project and established a working group involving the two transport ministers to come up with future terms for the project in line with the European coordinator.

Updated: 22 November 2017

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