Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2009

European Security and the Role of Italy

Michele Nones, Stefano Silvestri

July 2009

Istituto Affari Internazionali


Italy is a medium-sized power that is heavily exposed to security risks from both the Mediterranean basin/Middle East and the Balkans. Making its territory particularly permeable to them is the deeply rooted presence of criminal organisations. The advantages of participating in NATO are well known. In addition to guaranteeing allied support in case of war, the alliance is a powerful instrument for the standardisation of armed forces, a necessary prerequisite for any kind of further integration, be it political or operative. From an industrial point of view, keeping up to NATO standards is essential if Italy wants to maintain and strengthen its competitiveness on allied countries’ markets. Politically and strategically, apart from upholding the all important transatlantic relationship, NATO is also crucial in keeping a country of enormous strategic importance like Turkey anchored to Europe (in spite of the opposition of certain European governments to its entry into the EU), providing leverage in dialoguing and cooperating with Russia. Italy’s participation in the European security and defence policy (ESDP) is equally important. Actually, European integration and cooperation are needed to maintain the bond of alliance within NATO. Furthermore, they allow Italy to take part in new and more complex forms of solidarity aimed at facing the risks and threats of the new strategic situation, which are not – or are only partially – covered by the NATO Treaty.