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How defence and security foster the Italy-UK relations

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“The common challenges posed by such difficult times make our partnership with Italy particularly valuable,” said British Ambassador Llewellyn on the eve of the two-day conference in Rome with ministers Badenoch, Cleverly, Wallace, Crosetto and Tajani. Here are the themes, agenda and objectives

Talking security at Pontignano. The presence in Rome of three British government ministers “confirms the aspiration and commitment of both our governments to further strengthen our relationship.” Thus spoke Ed Llewellyn, British Ambassador to Italy, on the eve of the Pontignano Forum.

  • The two-day event – one of the most important in the Italy-United Kingdom relationship – will be held at Villa Wolkonsky, the British Ambassador’s Roman residence.
  • It will act as a substitute for the 30th edition of the traditional Pontignano Conference, which should have been held in September in Siena but was cancelled following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The key themes: bilateral cooperation in defence and security matters, including economic and energy. Delegates include politicians, entrepreneurs, researchers, experts in security, economics, energy and international politics, as well as journalists from both Italy and the UK.

In the ambassador’s own words. “The common challenges posed by such a difficult time make our partnership with Italy particularly valuable. From the war in Ukraine to its joint effect on our economies, on prices, and on energy and food security, these are some key dossiers for our respective government agendas, for which we are determined to strengthen our cooperation with Italy.”

Full steam ahead. Ministers James Cleverly (Foreign Affairs), Ben Wallace (Defence) and Kemi Badenoch (International Trade and, as of a few hours ago, Enterprise) will be in Rome on Wednesday and Thursday to attend the Forum and bilateral meetings.

  • According to a statement from the British Embassy, their engagement “testify to the momentum with which the London government and the British mission in Italy are committed to further developing and growing relations between the two countries.

The bilaterals… on Thursday, a 2+2 Foreign-Defence meeting is also scheduled at the Italian Senate palace, with Ministers Cleverly and Wallace on one side and Antonio Tajani and Guido Crosetto on the other.

  • Talks will surely include the Global Combat Air Programme, a joint project (along with Japan) geared at developing the next-generation fighter aircraft by 2035. It envisages fusing the research conducted by Japan on the F-X jet and by Italy and the UK on the Tempest.
  • As Bloomberg recently reported, the three partners intend to set up an international organisation to pursue the project by year’s end.
    • Sweden, too, contributed to the Tempest research. However, it’s not participating in the programme – for the time being.

… and the wider relations. The governments headed by Giorgia Meloni and Rishi Sunak both began in late October, three days apart. The two leaders met in early November on the sidelines of COP27, the UN climate conference in Egypt, and had their chance to lay the foundation for an as-of-then unbuilt relationship.

  • The two shared their belonging to a conservative political family, the urgency of finding solutions to economic hardships, their support for Ukraine and the work done in past years.”
  • Today, the presence in Rome of the three UK ministers testifies to the desire to strengthen ties, as well as the diplomatic services’ commitment to making it happen…
  • … in view of closing a new bilateral agreement designed to consolidate collaboration between Italy and the Uk across several areas, starting with foreign affairs and defence. A project that has been postponed for months due to internal ordeals and international developments.

Image: UK in Italy, Flickr

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