Italy is the fourth largest state in the European Union (EU) in terms of population and economic wealth. For its geographical location, the country stands at the intersection of two strategically important regional areas: continental Europe and Mediterranean. The country's geopolitical position has thus helped to shape its foreign policy guidelines. After World War II, Italy started to follow three main axes, aimed respectively at the United States, Europe and emerging countries.
The strategical position on the border between the two 'blocs' resulted into a geopolitical relevance that lasted throughout the Cold War period. The protection provided by the American entailed the installation of military bases on the territory of the peninsula with not insignificant repercussions on domestic politics. Once the Cold War ended and the Soviet threat vanished, Italy maintained a fundamental partnership with United States and NATO, as witnessed by its participation in the Alliance's major military and peacekeeping operations. The second priority in Italian foreign policy is evidenced by the country's propensity to support the European integration project, seeing the EU as the main instrument to amplify its international influence. Despite some inevitable tensions with Brussels, recently there has been a substantial convergence with EU institutions. The exceptions are two brief (but acute) disagreements in 2009: the first concerned the policy of refoulement of immigrants from Libya, the second the request presented by Italy to the European Commission to review the EU's commitments to reduce harmful emissions.
Finally, Italy has developed a number of bilateral relations, in particular with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Balkan countries. Equally important is the axis with Turkey, a country with which Italy maintains intense economic relations, although from 2013 onwards bilateral relations have cooled slightly due to Ankara's more general friction with the European Union. With regard to the Middle East, Italian foreign policy has maintained a position of substantial equidistance in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which has allowed it to maintain friendly relations with both Israel and the Arab countries. Towards the Balkans, finally, Italian foreign policy is aimed at promoting stability, in particular with a view to defusing ethnic and national tensions (especially in Kosovo and Serbia) and combating organised crime. [Enciclopedia Treccani]
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