The main actors that cooperate in Italy’s WGA-like activities are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the intelligence services. A special role is played by the embassy/ambassador in the country concerned. Parliament has to be fully involved in any decision-making.
The core of Italy’s WGA lies in a joint approach of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, and it also depends on the political and personal relationships between the two respective ministers. When in agreement, they can be the driving force behind most WGA initiatives, under the guidance and supervision of the prime minister. Both ministries have been directly involved in the debates in Brussels concerning the EU’s comprehensive approach and the EU Global Strategy (EUGS), which has clearly had an influence on their approach to crises and conflicts.
At the government level, inter-ministerial coordination on external crisis management should in principle take place within two bodies established at the level of the Prime Minister’s Office as part of the national organisation for crisis management created by decree in 2010 (Prime Minister’s Office 2010): the Political and Strategic Committee (CoPS) and the Inter-ministerial Team for Situation and Planning (NISP). However, coordination can also take place within the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Security of the Republic (CISR) established by law in 2007 as part of a reform of the intelligence sector, as well as within the Supreme Council of Defence (CSD), a body set forth by Italy’s constitution to debate and analyse issues concerning national security and defence.
In practice, however, decisions on external crises and conflicts (including those involving a WGA) are mainly taken by small groups of ministers meeting informally at the initiative of the prime minister. These meetings, which are chaired by the prime minister, bring together the relevant ministers (Foreign Affairs, Defence, the Interior, etc), the chief of defence (CHOD), and representatives of the intelligence agencies to deal with specific crisis situations. For example, in recent years, this was the case concerning Libya.
In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an established practice of convening regular coordination meetings – both formal and informal – with other ministries. This happens regularly with the Ministry of Defence (at different levels), less regularly with the Ministry of the Interior, and informally with the intelligence agencies. These meetings provide for concrete coordination. Their usefulness, however, depends on their level (a higher/political level usually ensures a concrete follow-up), on the personal relationships between the respective ministers (such as whether they belong to the same political party), and on their relationships with the prime minister.
In principle, formal and informal coordination mechanisms within each ministry work smoothly. But their effectiveness in practice differs according to the administration concerned, as it also depends on the roles assumed by individual leading figures, even among civil servants. In this context, some peculiarities have to be taken into account. For example, coordination between the CHOD and the Defence General Staff, on the one hand, and the minister of defence and his/her cabinet, on the other, can require some efforts at times. And, within the Prime Minister’s Office, coordination is not made easier by the differences in the bureaucratic backgrounds of the actors involved, the presence of both political appointees and permanent staff, and the presence of members of the various political parties in the governing coalition. Lastly, coordination in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is more informal, as it involves a limited number of actors and is often based on personal contacts, emails and telephone calls.