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Governo Italiano

Main relations between the European Union and close third countries


Main relations between the European Union and close third countries


Italy supports a policy within Europe aimed at reminding Russia about the need to honour the values and principles that inform EU foreign policy (this includes respect for human rights, respect for the rule of law, the complete freedom of sovereign states to choose forms of political association and financial integration, and honouring the free market). There is also the need to pursue a line of dialogue with Moscow (which is still a necessary liaison in the resolution of international crises and in other areas of strategic interest). Therefore, if there are breaches of international law, the “twin-track” approach combines necessary resolve with dialogue in the areas of mutual interest.

The five guiding principles in the collective approach of the Member States and the European Union to Moscow were established by the Foreign Affairs Council of 2016: i) implementation of the Minsk agreements as the key condition for any substantial change in the EU’s stance towards Russia; ii) strengthened relations with the EU’s Eastern Partners and countries in Central Asia; iii)strengthening the resilience of the EU; iv) selective engagement with Moscow; v) the need to engage in people-to-people contacts and support Russian civil society.


The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation set up to promote free trade and economic integration for the benefit of its four Member States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

Three of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) with the European Union, signed on 2 May 1992 and which came into effect on 1 January 1994. The EEA Agreement, which brings together the EU Member States and the three EFTA/EEA States in a single market, referred to as an “internal market”, gives Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway the right to participate in the internal market without having to be members of the European Union. This is on the basis of a Community acquis automatic adjustment process with respect to the internal market. It substantially extends the “four freedoms” of free movement of goods, services, persons and capital to the three EFTA/EEA countries, but without ceding sovereignty and providing for joint decision-making bodies.

In exchange for the right to take full part in the internal market, the three EFTA/EEA countries agreed to help reduce social and economic inequality in the European Economic Area regions by providing grants for investment and development products in certain priority areas (EEA Grants), in addition to a separate bilateral grant system established by Norway in 2004 (Norway Grants).  As part of the total allocations for both of the 2014-2021 financing mechanisms (EEA and Norway), two global funds will be set up to fund projects that tackle youth unemployment.


Italy closely followed the implementation of the constitutional provisions in the Swiss Confederation following the results of the referendum “against mass immigration” of 9 February 2014. It gave active support and encouragement to Berne and Brussels to identify a solution that would allow Switzerland to honour the referendum results, while still honouring the cardinal principles of the European Union. It did so without denouncing the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), and, through a ‘cascade’ effect, the other six Bilateral I Agreements of 1999, since each agreement is legally linked by way of the “guillotine clause.” The entire legislative and regulatory procedure, which had begun with the referendum on mass immigration of 2014, was concluded with approval of the decrees implementing the law on foreigners.

The Italian government also strongly supports negotiations to enter into a new institutional framework Agreement between the European Union and Switzerland (Facilitation Agreement), which is vitally important to get past both the current sectoral fragmentation of Switzerland’s participation in the European market and the concerns caused by Switzerland’s failure to automatically adjust its law to the Community acquis and EU Court of Justice case law.


Negotiations have been in place between the micro European States and the EU since March 2015 to progressively include them into the internal European market. Italy is still attentively following the developments of the negotiating sessions for one or more Association Agreements between the Republic of San Marino, the Principality of Monaco and the Principality of Andorra on the one side, and the European Commission on the other, continuing to encourage dialogue among them. If the Association Agreement were finalised with the three micro-states, it would further strengthen the internal European market. The manufacturing sectors of the three micro-states would obtain significant economic openness to the EU market, subject to protecting their respective national specificities. The negotiating mandate allows for protection of the specific nature of neighbourhood relations between the three micro-states and the Member States of the EU.

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