The Italian government, currently run by the League and the Five Star Movement, recently announced its Economics and Finance Document, after days full of worries and harsh negotiations. When everything started, even though the Italian Minister of Economics Tria was particularly concerned about boosting public expenditure with a wider deficit in the Balance of Payments, while the two Ministers Di Maio and Salvini won their battle publicly announcing that the Fiscal Compact would have been put aside, letting the Italian economy self-funding with deficit expenditure.
Anyway, security and international affairs do not seem to be mentioned by the document. Without any properly allocated resource, the international presence of Italy might sooner or later be left in the shadows, with important effects on the Italian role in the international arena. The authorisations currently in force, with the exception of some transactions in third countries, ensured financial coverage only until the 30th of September. Now that the deadline has finally come, there is no record of any documents and, unfortunately, politics is totally silent about that.
In 2018 Italy participates to 42 international missions, conducted both independently, on the basis of bilateral agreements signed with the host country, and as part of multilateral organisations such as the UN, NATO and the EU. These operations work on a double path, aimed both at guaranteeing the Italian citizens the primary need for national security and at increasing Italy’s international role and credibility in multilateral contexts.
As for the first nine months of 2018, Italy had decided to confirm participation in 36 international missions and to launch six more. New and more detailed missions have absorbed tasks already carried out before, as for the “Hippocrates operation” in Libya. Further, absolute novelties are the participation in the NATO mission to support the armed forces and security in Tunisia, the EU military training operation in the Central African Republic, and the UN mission in Western Sahara. The launch of the Italian bilateral mission in Niger, envisaging a considerable deployment of men and vehicles, represents a turning point in the process of the Italian “strategic repositioning” and the commitment in the Euro-Mediterranean area and in the African continent.
Of course, the geographic relocation of the Italian troops, sanctioned by the aforementioned missions in Niger, Tunisia, Western Sahara and the Central African Republic, is of great importance in light of the primary national security needs, such as the control of migratory flows in the Mediterranean, and the fight against international terrorism with radical Islamic roots.
For the three-years period 2017-2019, the total Italian defence spending amounted to around 13 billion euro for 2018, roughly 1.1% of GDP, and seems destined to suffer a slight decline in the coming year – a common tendency registered in many EU countries. Italy is therefore very far from reaching the 2% threshold of the GDP allocated to defence spending, as established by the heads of state and government of all the member countries in the NATO summit of 2014.
In this context, participation in international missions is an indispensable element for Italy to be able to present itself to the allies of the Atlantic Alliance – but also within the UN and the EU – as a credible partner, being able to leverage one of its strengths, that is, the employment of the military abroad, and thus offsetting the strong and persistent gaps in defence spending.
The effective performance of international operations is linked to the allocation of resources by both the government and the Parliament. If it is therefore necessary to ensure regular continuation of the ongoing missions as well as their future planning and funding over the entire 2019 period, in order to effectively take advantage of their potential for national security and the protection of Italian interests around the globe.