NATO Allies and the Southern Flank. The very fact that this year’s NATO Summit is held in Vilnius, along with the entrance of Finland and Sweden in the Atlantic Alliance, underscores how the Russian aggression against Ukraine has shifted the epicentre to the East. Still, as Italy has repeatedly warned, the Southern Flank and its multiple, interconnected issues require more attention.
- That has been acknowledged in the Alliance’s final Communiquè, which was published on Tuesday evening.
The official wording. “NATO’s southern neighbourhood, particularly the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel regions, faces interconnected security, demographic, economic, and political challenges. These are aggravated by the impact of climate change, fragile institutions, health emergencies, and food insecurity,” reads the Alliance’s note.
- “This situation provides fertile ground for the proliferation of non-state armed groups, including terrorist organisations. It also enables destabilising and coercive interference by strategic competitors,” such as Russia, which is “fuelling tensions and instability across these regions.”
- Furthermore, “[p]ervasive instability results in violence against civilians” and “contributes to forced displacement, fuelling human trafficking and irregular migration,” a core issue for the current Italian government.
NATO’s homework: “In response to the profound implications of these threats and challenges within and in the vicinity of the Euro-Atlantic area, we have today tasked the North Atlantic Council in permanent session to launch a comprehensive and deep reflection on existing and emerging threats and challenges, and opportunities for engagements with our partner nations, international organisations, and other relevant actors in the region, to be presented by our next Summit in 2024.”
The Giorgia Meloni-Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting. While in Vilnius, the Italian Prime Minister spoke for just under an hour with the Turkish President, just hours after he signalled that Ankara would greenlight Stockholm’s accession into the Alliance. “Türkiye will continue its strong cooperation with Italy, of which it is a NATO ally,” he tweeted later.
- As major players in the enlarged Mediterranean area, the two countries share an interest in several of the region’s most crucial dossiers, including combating terrorism (and, more generally, stabilisation) as well as energy (and especially resource exploitation).
- Turkey is also the top recipient of individual defence export licences from Italy, coming in just shy of €600 million in 2022.