A Half-Century of Italian Foreign Policy
Tripodi, Paolo, Contemporary Review
At the beginning of 1993 in Guida alia politica estera italiana Sergio Romano highlighted the main difficulties of Italian foreign policy at the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s. He stated that the new international scenario created after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the end of the so-called first republic in Italy, are decisive in explaining the poor Italian commitment on the international scene. Romano is adamant when he states that after witnessing the international events from 1989 to 1992, mainly the former Yugoslav crisis and the Gulf war, 'Italian foreign policy - the one the country adopted with different results in the last forty-five years - is dead'.
Since Romano stated his position, Italy has experienced significant events. Nearly the entire political class in power has been replaced, following the Magistrates' enquiries of Mani Pulite 'Cleaning Hands' and the March 1994 general election. The new government coalition was lead by Silvio Berlusconi and for the first time in the post-war period, members of the neofascist party MSI 'Italian Social Movement', now National Alliance, assumed relevant positions. In one year the new coalition collapsed and it was replaced by a government of technocrats that lead the country to a new general election in April 1996. Professor Romano Prodi became the new prime minister. The government coalition, in which an important role is played by the former communist party PDS (Party of Democratic Left), owes its stability to the support of the Marxist party. Again, but on the other side of the political spectrum, for the first time after the end of the national coalition government in 1945-1947, Italy has a coalition formed with the participation of the extreme left parties.
Although this shift in power has been quick and significant, many typical features of the first republic still lay down the basis of the Italian political system. Italy's experience is that whatever political class is in power, or whatever electoral law is adopted, these do not constitute the existence of a new political system. At this point the questions are: is Italy finally entering the second republic and, for the aims of this article, has the Italian foreign policy of the first republic died?
Elements of Italian Foreign Policy
Italian foreign policy is characterised by permanent elements that can be recognised since Italy became a single political entity during the last century. Its geopolitical position and its historical approach to foreign affairs, with different degrees of intensity, have been constantly present in its foreign policy. Currently the main features of Italian foreign policy are the outcome of the events following the end of the Second World War. The new political system adopted in Italy after the collapse of fascism, as well as the creation of a bipolar system on the international scene, reshaped the aims of Italian foreign policy and its style. Italy has three main fields of interest on the international scene: NATO, the EU and those geopolitical areas involving its economic and strategic interests, the Mediterranean Sea, the Arab world and more recently the Balkans. The membership of NATO is the oldest Italian commitment on the international scene. At the end of the Second World War, Italy needed security and to begin a process of modernisation. The Prime Minister, Alcide de Gasperi, and the Foreign Minister, Carlo Sforza, adopted a foreign policy that reproduced the model of the liberal period preceding the fascist era. They wanted to maintain for Italy a minimum degree of power in trying to regain the colonies Italy had before fascism. This attitude was wrong and, as they soon understood, anachronistic. Although they worked to emphasise a clear distinction between the new Italian politics and fascist responsibilities during the war, Italy was treated as a defeated state. Its relevance on the international scene was not even comparable to that of a small power. …