Italy Report



Because there are no national documents on an Italian WGA, there are also no guidelines, joint financial instruments, joint lessons learned processes, special units or inter-departmental structures of coordination related to the country’s WGA. However, this has not prevented the establishment of some coordinating bodies that could provide for a potential ‘WGA architecture’.
The provisions of the 2010 decree concerning the national organisation for crisis management (Prime Minister’s Office 2010) have only been partially implemented so far, which could also be attributed to the fact that they were adopted by decree rather than by law. On the other hand, both the CoPS and the NISP could provide for the core of a national WGA architecture. But the CoPS has never convened and, even though it meets regularly, the NISP has mainly been dealing with the protection of critical infrastructures (responding to NATO and EU inputs), hybrid threats (in response to EU inputs), and EU-NATO exercises rather than with real-time political and security crises and conflicts. The secretariat of both the CoPS and NISP is provided for by the Office of the Military Adviser to the Prime Minister. This could explain why their activities have so far been limited to a few sectoral issues, since it is very difficult to implement a WGA when military officials are in the lead.
There are two major problems with having small, informally meeting groups of ministers make decisions on external crises and conflicts. First, no formal records are available regarding their outcomes. And, second, the civil servants who are actually in charge of the issues being discussed at these meetings are only involved in preparing them to a limited degree.
A significant institutional change that could strengthen Italy’s commitment to a WGA would be the establishment of a National Security Council within the Prime Minister’s Office and the appointment of a national security adviser (who could potentially be the diplomatic adviser to the prime minister). Such a change should be discussed by parliament and provided for in a law, as this would ensure that the WGA will benefit from broad political and institutional support and be sustainable over time. For the time being, however, the implementation of political decisions related to a WGA is entrusted to individual ministries and follows their respective procedures.
A number of enablers have facilitated this process. For example, there is the fact that development cooperation has always been part of what was recently renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation as well as an integral part of Italy’s foreign policy.
Second, there is the fact that the Carabinieri, who are one of the main features of Italy’s WGA, are under the leadership of the Ministry of Defence when deployed abroad, whereas they (and other police forces) are coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior when operating within Italy.
The third enabler involves a bit of administrative reshuffling. In 2010, a few steps in the direction of ensuring better policy coherence were taken in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On the one hand, most of the WGA-relevant geographical desks were brought under the leadership of the political director. On the other hand, the CSFP/CSDP desk was shifted from the EU Department to the Political Affairs Department and upgraded to the level of a unit under the direct leadership of the political director. These moves have enabled increased coordination among the structures dealing with the EU, NATO, the UN and the OSCE and the geographical desks dealing with Italy’s neighbourhood, and they have made it possible to have a single individual in a leadership position (i.e. the political director) interact with other ministries (primarily the Ministry of Defence). That said, one should note that this remains a tactical rather than a strategic change. Furthermore, despite these improvements, one thing is still missing: bodies to deal with stabilisation and peacebuilding issues while taking a horizontal approach. In theory, one unit could be established within the Foreign Ministry (Political Affairs) to deal with policy, and another unit could be set up in the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation for implementing concrete projects.
The fourth enabler is the process, involving both the government and parliament, through which Italian participation in international missions and operations is agreed and funded. This process, as well as the parliament’s process of reviewing the previous year’s initiatives, provides for a coherent and transparent overview of both military and civilian initiatives undertaken with regard to external crises and conflicts.
The procedure being followed in this context facilitates the design and implementation of a WGA, as a single decision-making process provides for the allocation of financial resources to different ministries and to both military and civilian initiatives.
However, the 2016 law concerning Italy’s participation in international missions and operations (Italian Parliament 2016) was a missed opportunity in terms of a national WGA to external crises and conflicts. This piece of legislation originated from parliament and was only meant to better define its role in this field. As such, it mainly deals with the process and not the substance of the issue, nor does it contain explicit obligations or commitments in terms of a WGA.
As Italy does not have a formal strategic framework for ensuring a coordinated approach for all stakeholders involved in responding to crises and conflicts, there is also no strategic framework for its development-cooperation efforts (e.g. those of the newly established Italian Agency for Development Cooperation) that would ensure a cohesive approach to its initiatives, contribute to synergies with other actors, and facilitate a coordinated approach at the country level. This leads to a situation in which competing priorities are resolved in a pragmatic way: through trade-offs.
Furthermore, to this day, the Ministry of the Interior seems reluctant to be a full partner of the foreign and defence ministries in designing and implementing a national WGA. Since it was less involved in the relevant debates within the international fora, it is somewhat of a missing element in Italy’s contributions to the WGA strategies of the EU, the UN, NATO and the OSCE. In this case, getting the Ministry of the Interior to become more involved would require more of a change of cultural mindset than new institutional arrangements.
Since the initiative and political input for a WGA often come from cooperation and coordination among individual ministers, a major ‘disabler’ in terms of WGA is when relevant ministers (foreign affairs, defence and the interior) belong to different political parties in the governing coalition and do not enjoy good personal and/or professional relationships.
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