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Italy - Foreign Relations

Italy views itself as a medium sized power participating in the grand security alliance of NATO and in the European process of integration. At the same time, Italy intends to assume a higher profile and greater responsibilities in the geographic areas in which it has immediate security interests. The region including the Mediterranean as far as the Persian Gulf, Central/Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey with a push in the direction of the Caspian Sea area and Central Asia is seen to be the nerve center of future European stability and of Italys interests. The Italians do not see themselves acting alone in any regional confrontation but rather as part of a community of European nations acting together to resolve issues and differences that will disrupt the political and economic stability of Europe.

In the absence of direct threat to its national security, Italy has chosen to declare a series of issues that are significant to its national interests. Italy has a strong geostrategic interest in bringing Russia back into the international community through a stronger bilateral partnership. Italy was also committed to stabilization in the Balkans to prevent further fragmentation.

Italy regards the Middle East as an area filled with dangers and uncertainties. Italys strategy in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s was based on containment of Saddams threatening ambitions by constant surveillance on Iraqi programs and by maintaining Italian military capabilities in a state of readiness for possible intervention. Italy also embarked on a strategy of normalizing relations with Iraqs neighboring countries such as Iraq and Turkey.

Italy was a founding member of the European Community--now the European Union (EU). Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe. It chaired the CSCE (the forerunner of the OSCE) in 1994, the EU from July to December 1990, January to June 1996, and July to December 2003, and the G-8 in 2001 and in 2009. Italy served a two-year term on the UN Security Council in 2007-2008.

Italy firmly supported the United Nations and its international security activities. Italy leads the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and has actively participated in and deployed troops in support of UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mozambique, and Timor-Leste. It provides critical support for NATO and EU operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Georgia, and Chad. Italy, under NATO's ISAF, maintained a Provincial Reconstruction Team in the western Afghanistan province of Herat, commanded RC-West, and maintains a Carabinieri police training center. Italy supported reconstruction and development assistance to the Iraqi people through humanitarian workers and other officials, particularly in Dhi Qar Province, and was a leading contributor to the NATO Training Mission-Iraq, with approximately 100 military personnel and Carabinieri police trainers. At one time almost 9,000 Italian troops were deployed, including 2,100 in Kosovo, 2,350 in Lebanon as part of UNIFIL, and over 2,600 in Afghanistan.

The Italian Government seeks to obtain consensus with other European countries on various defense and security issues within the EU as well as NATO. European integration and the development of common defense and security policies will continue to be of primary interest to Italy.

Italy ratified the Kyoto Protocol in May 2002. Under the Protocol Italy had a target to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 6.5% against 1990 levels. Current emissions are between 12-13% above 1990 levels, though 2006 saw the first drop (1.5%) for nearly 15 years. The main sources of emissions are the energy sector and transport. Italy is highly dependent on imported energy, particularly oil and gas. Three-quarters of Italy's electricity comes from imported sources. Oil makes up 43% of Italy's energy use, natural gas 36%. Renewables account for around 6% of total energy, mainly from hydroelectric sources. Italy phased out nuclear power following a referendum in 1987.

About 4-5 million British visitors visit Italy each year, while just over 1 million Italians visit the UK. There are 100,000 Britons resident in Italy, while 150,000 Italians live in the UK. Italy is an important partner of the United Kingdom, both in the bilateral context and in work together as members of the European Union, NATO, G8 and other international organisations. This relationship is strengthened by frequent contacts at ministerial level. Co-operation in other areas includes the annual British-Italian Conference Pontignano, which brings together opinion formers from both countries to debate topical issues.




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