The visit of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Rome took place at an awkward moment for Italian politics. The resignation of Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio from the Five Star Movement was the result of his long-standing disagreement with former premier Giuseppe Conte. It has yet to be seen whether the Five Star party will continue to provide support to the government of Mario Draghi in the medium term. Di Maio is followed by numerous politicians who are disenchanted with Conte and disagree with his agenda. The League party has subsequently become the strongest in Parliament.
Draghi hosted Mitsotakis amid his calls for unity. Natural political considerations, however, do not undermine the significance of the visit. The economy has the lion’s share. Italy is the biggest market for Greek products. According to Italian statistics, Greece’s exports to Italy reached €3.1 billion in 2021, while they had amounted to €2.5 billion in 2020 and €3 billion in 2019. A rise in exports worth €278 million was also recorded in the first two months of 2022 when compared to the same period last year. Additionally, the latest available data demonstrate that the stock of Italian foreign direct investments in Greece had stood at €3.9 billion in 2020. Prospects for the future are bright, in particular in the field of energy and the shipping sector.
In parallel with the economic sphere, Greece and Italy are making crucial political steps together. The 2020 agreement on maritime zones was a model in bridging differences between states by respecting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Italy recently inked a similar deal with Croatia that was commended by Greece as another peaceful arrangement in the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean.
Mitsotakis’ Rome visit has produced an opportunity for Greece and Italy to enrich their collaboration. The Italian capacity for storing natural gas is edifying in a phase during which EU member-states are struggling to achieve energy security ahead of a difficult winter. More importantly, the two countries share a common pattern on how growth – especially in Europe’s southern periphery – would not be jeopardized by strict and unbearable rules for the post-pandemic epoch. Last but not least, they can employ a joint and holistic approach for the Mediterranean that will explore the possibility for a multilateral dialogue in line with the recommendation of the EU Council as well as solidify NATO’s presence in the Med Basin.
Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is a senior fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel. In the last trimester he was a lecturer at Luiss University in Rome.