France and Italy

Political relations

The relationship between France and Italy is intense, worthy of cooperation between 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. The 33ʳᵈ bilateral summit, organized in Venice on 8 March 2016, was an opportunity for the President of the French Republic and the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic to reaffirm the quality of the countries’ bilateral relationship.

In addition, the administrations of both countries have developed forms of cooperation structured by setting up various working groups, such as on industrial and migration issues. The Secretaries-General of our respective foreign ministries meet annually to assess the situation and set the guidelines for actions undertaken in that framework. The two Secretaries-General last met in Paris on 10 February 2015, ahead of the 32ⁿᵈ bilateral Summit.

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. Mr Giorgio Napolitano, then President of the Italian Republic, made a State visit to France in November 2012, where tribute was paid to the exemplary career of this strong believer in Europe, who showed great moral and political authority when he was at the helm of Italy. His successor, Mr Sergio Mattarella, was received in Paris by the French President on 30 March 2015.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reserved his first European visit for France, where he met the President of the French Republic on 15 March 2014. Similarly, Paolo Gentiloni and Angelino Alfano were keen to make Paris their first foreign visits (on 10 January 2017 and 21 December 2016 respectively. Contact takes place regularly, particularly ahead of and during European Councils.

Economic relations

France and Italy are each other’s second-largest trading partner (with €70 billion of trade in 2015). Italy is the leading market for French agrifood product sales and a leading outlet for French exports of mechanical equipment (15.6%) and chemicals (14.4%). Much foreign direct investment (FDI) in Italy comes from France (accounting for about one fifth of the stock).

Our trade deficit with Italy, standing at €5.5 billion in 2015, 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 accounting for one-fifth of total international investment in the country €42 billion). Italy is the fifth-largest investor in France after 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.

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 French School in Rome and the Jean Bérard Centre in Naples. The educational network consists of five schools, including three secondary (Lycée Chateaubriand in Rome) and two middle schools, as well as some 30 Alliance Française branches. French is the second most-studied language in Italy behind English. An agreement regarding deliverance of dual high school diplomas (French Baccalaureate and the Esame di Stato or 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 which has been the main crossing point in the Alps, 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-Turn 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.

Updated: 2 May 2017

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