Home » How much substance is there in the agreement between Italy and Ukraine?

How much substance is there in the agreement between Italy and Ukraine?

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How much substance is there in the agreement between Italy and Ukraine?

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On Saturday 24 February, on the occasion of her trip to Kiev for the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signed a security cooperation agreement between Italy and Ukraine together with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Although the agreement has a certain symbolic and political importance, it does not provide for specific or binding commitments on the part of the Italian government. The text It is composed of 20 articles and reiterates, among other things, Italy’s commitment for the next ten years to support Ukraine in its resistance effort against Russian aggression and in integration with the European Union. It is renewable, but each partner can revoke it by sending six months’ written notice.

The agreement is very, very similar to other agreements of the same type concluded between the Ukrainian government and several European countries (the first to do so was The UKon January 12, they had followed him France e Germania, both on February 16) and entire paragraphs are identical; a fact that demonstrates how the members of the G7, the informal group of the seven most influential Western countries in the world, are moving in coordination with each other to reiterate their commitment to the Ukrainian cause.

In some ways, however, the text signed by Italy has even less force than those concluded with Ukraine by other European countries. Not only did the Italian Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, want to reduce its scope, saying to the Foreign Affairs commissions of the House and Senate that the text «will not be legally binding», will not entail «obligations in terms of international law, nor financial commitments», will not provide for «automatic guarantees of political or military support» and for all these reasons «will not therefore require the procedure of parliamentary ratification”. But in the Italian text there are also greater cautions when it comes to the possible provision of military assistance, which is also defined in less detail than in the other versions of the agreement.

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The Italian text is in fact the only one to specify that aid to Ukraine will be given “within the limits of its means and capabilities” (a further way of putting one’s hands forward, so to speak), and at the same time it is the He is the only one not to specify that any military aid will concern “the field of security, the supply of military equipment in all areas according to need (i.e. land, air and sea armaments) and economic assistance”.

Meloni together with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau (left), Ukrainian President Zelensky, President of the European Commission von der Leyen, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in Kiev, 24 February 2024 (Filippo Attili/ANSA)

For the rest, the agreement is a set of reassurances that Italy’s support for Ukraine will continue, even in the long term. Italy undertakes in this sense to «ensure that the security and defense forces of Ukraine are able to fully restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders», therefore also including the regions of Donbass and the Crimean peninsula, in the Black Sea, annexed by Putin in various phases starting from 2014 following fake referendums.

In addition to providing for another series of collaborations in the sectors of defence, trade relations, investments and the supply of raw materials, the agreement with Ukraine commits Italy to supporting a transition once the war is over, which will have to pass between the other things from the improvement of the “efficiency” and “transparency of national institutions”.

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Precisely on this point the Italian agreement with Ukraine is the most in-depth and detailed of the four. It envisages a broad and ambitious reform plan in Ukraine, relating to the judicial system, anti-corruption, public administration, the rule of law, respect for human rights and media freedom, as well as the development of a sustainable economy from the from an environmental point of view. Likewise, it reiterates Italy’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s accession process to the European Union, which in fact had drawn impetus precisely from Italy’s initiative. In March 2022, in fact, the then Prime Minister Mario Draghi had expressed himself explicitly in favor of Ukrainian integration, when other Western European countries, including Germany, had expressed themselves very skeptical. On this, Meloni’s government has always placed itself in continuity with Draghi, and the text of the agreement confirms this.

Draghi meets Zelensky in Kiev, during the visit organized together with Macron and Scholz, on 16 June 2022 (Filippo Attili/ANSA)

The meaning of the text is to underline Italy’s diplomatic support for the Ukrainian government, also in the coming years. In the Italian version this passage is more central than in the texts of the French, German and British agreement: it is not too surprising in any case. In fact, it reflects the attitude that historically Italian governments have almost always adopted in cases of international crisis, focusing more on diplomatic activity than on more or less direct military support. It is also the result of deep divisions between Italy’s political parties, which have failed to agree on a possible significant increase in arms supplies to Ukraine and military spending.

In this sense, therefore, the greater commitment on the diplomatic level is a bit of a way in which Italy has tried to compensate for its responsibilities on the international level and towards the Ukrainians: an attempt to count for something without committing too much, and at the same time to postpone the issue to a potentially distant future, given that for now there are no signs that the war can end quickly and that the next phase of transition and reconstruction can therefore begin.

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