Italy and Eastern Europe: A Dossier Subordinated to the Rome-Moscow Axis?
Over the years, Italy’s foreign policy towards post-Soviet countries has developed in the framework of bilateral relations and in the context of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Italy welcomed the launch of the EaP in 2009, and since then has supported almost all EU initiatives under the project, including visa liberalization for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Moreover, official Rome favored launching the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia following the Georgian-Russian war of 2008.
Given that Italy is a Mediterranean country, however, its attention has always been focused on its Southern neighborhood, rather than its Eastern one. Italy’s 2014-2020 budget for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) clearly indicates this preference, allocating one-third of its funds to the East compared to two-thirds to the South. Moreover, Italy’s relationship with its Eastern neighbors both at the bilateral and multilateral levels has tended to be subordinated to its partnership with Russia. When the EU launched the EaP in response to the Russian interventionism in Georgia in 2009, official Rome was concerned it would be perceived as anti-Russian and proposed to involve Moscow in the program. To understand the importance and value Italy places on the Eastern neighbourhood, one must examine the essence and rationale of the Rome-Moscow political and economic axis.