It took five years of ups and downs (and at times there were very high and other very low moments, between hysteria and unprecedented diplomatic ruptures), to arrive at the signature scheduled for Friday at nine in the morning at the Quirinale of the treaty that from that building of power takes its name. It is a bilateral agreement between France and Italy: it takes its cue from the Aachen treaty, which Paris signed with Germany in 1963. And which laid the foundations of the Franco-German axis: for better or worse it has accompanied a united Europe ever since. The aspiration is to reproduce the same path. Five months after the presidential elections in France, Macron also arrives in Rome to strengthen his role as European leader. And at the end of the morning he will be received in audience by Pope Francis, a very important appointment to wink at the Catholic electorate at home.
Mario Draghi and Sergio Mattarella will welcome him at the Quirinale. The Italian president was the thread that never broke between Rome and Paris, even when mutual trust was at its lowest, at the time of the first Conte government, Matteo Salvini’s shots against Macron and the unfortunate mission of Luigi Di Maio, number two of the Executive, who met a group of more or less subversive yellow vests, on February 5, 2019, in deep France. In just over two years the situation has changed completely. As indicated by the Elysée, “the two countries have rediscovered a relationship of exceptional quality, which translates into a great closeness between Macron and Draghi, a relationship of trust and mutual respect”.
At the French Presidency they do nothing but underline the feeling between Macron and Draghi. Let’s say that, given the current situation, the two countries cannot really take the luxury of arguing. There are too many common interests, including the billions of the European recovery plan, particularly generous with Italy but also with France. The treaty covers various issues, from cross-border cooperation to justice, from security to the economy. And it introduces mechanisms of periodic consultation, also to overcome any divergences, in the wake, for example, of the Franco-German Councils of Ministers, which have been in operation for years. To underline: it was at the Lyon summit, in September 2017, between Macron and the then Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, that the idea of the de Quirinale treaty was put on the table for the first time.
The audience with the pontiff is also crucial for Macron, now that a candidate (not yet declared) is emerging, Eric Zemmour, who insists on French identity and tries to attract the Catholic electorate, in France mainly conservative. And since the axis of the macronist base has shifted to the right (in parallel with the President’s policy), Macron will try to exploit Francis’s audience in this sense. At the Elysée they explain that he will emphasize the benevolence and respect of others, as founding values of Catholicism (in contrast to Zemmour’s more “aggressive” words). Macron, baptized at the age of 12, then moved away from the Catholic religion, but defines himself as a “spiritual agnostic”. He went to a private Catholic high school and, in any case, the Catholic codes remain evident in his speech. With Francis he will have to face the bad story of the abuse of pedophiles against minors in the French Church, highlighted by the commission led by Jean-Marc Sauvé. This asks the Vatican for the possibility of removing the secret of confession, when the priests learn of any abuses. An open and controversial question, which does not find the pope’s agreement.