Italy and Uzbekistan are now strategic partners. On Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcomed the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in Rome. She later called it a “fruitful meeting in which we discussed strengthening our cooperation in many areas that unite us, starting with the economy but also in the fields of defence industry and culture.
- “The signing of important agreements and the adoption of a joint declaration offer the opportunity to elevate our relations to the level of a strategic partnership and to write a new chapter of friendship between our nations.”
- President Mirziyoyev also shook hands with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, along with Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
What they signed. This partnership, the statement reads, provides for enhanced cooperation in the following areas: political, defence and security, as well as the legal sphere, economic and trade cooperation, culture, science, education and tourism.
- “Uzbekistan has great potential and is an important partner for Italy, and we intend to increase our collaboration in every sphere, including regional ones,” remarked PM Meloni, stressing their willingness to up their ties in both bilateral and multilateral settings.
- Recent constitutional changes will allow President Mirziyoyev to run again for another two seven-year terms, meaning he could work until 2040 to accelerate the country’s ongoing economic opening.
Long time in the making. Rome’s outreach to Central Asia has been ongoing since 2019, with the Italy-Central Asia conference featuring representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. PM Meloni’s executive seems intent on pursuing that push and carving out a leading role in Central Asia – as demonstrated by Defence Minister Guido Crosetto travelling to the Uzbek capital in late April to hold high-level meetings, including with President Mirziyoyev himself.
Filling Russia’s void. His mission underscored the centrality of the defence dimension in the bilateral ties, including in the revamped term partnership between Italy and Uzbekistan – which holds great strategic significance, both because of its roaring economy and its strategic positioning in Central Asia.
- It all interlaces with the decline of Russia’s status as a regional security provider, frayed by its flagging invasion of Ukraine and its increasingly-evident unreliability – if not the outright danger it poses to the post-Soviet space.
- That’s also why the region’s republics (notably the most outward-looking ones, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) are trying to look beyond Russia. And that’s where Italy, which is increasingly projected eastwards, comes in.