Greece–Italy relations

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Greek-Italian relations
Map indicating locations of Greece and Italy



Greece and Italy enjoy special and very strong bilateral diplomatic relations.[1][2][3][4][5] Modern diplomatic relations between the two countries were established right after Italy's unification, and are today regarded as cordial. The two states cooperate in fields of energy, security, culture and tourism, and are major trading partners, both in exports and imports. Greeks and Italians often exchange the phrase "una faccia, una razza", meaning "one face, one race".

Greece and Italy share common political views about the Balkans, the Mediterranean Basin and the world, and are leading supporters of the integration of all the Balkan nations to the Euro-Atlantic family, and promoted the "Agenda 2014",[6] which was proposed by the Greek Government in 2004 as part of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki, to integrate the Western Balkan nations into the EU by the year 2014, when Greece and Italy assumed the rotating Presidency of the European Union for the first and second halves of 2014, respectively.[7][8][9]

The two countries are EU, UN and NATO member states, and cooperate in many other multilateral organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, and the Union for the Mediterranean, while at same time they are promoting closer diplomatic relations and cooperation with other key countries and organizations, such as the United States, Israel and the African Union.[10]


19th century[edit]

Greeks with Italian volunteers in the Greco-Turkish War in 1897.

Greece (which had gained its independence in 1830) and Italy established diplomatic relations in 1861, immediately upon Italy's unification.[11] Italian philhellenes had contributed to the Greek independence, such as the jurist Vincenzo Gallina, Annibale Santorre di Rossi de Pomarolo, Count of Santarosa and Giuseppe Rosaroll.

Throughout the 19th century, Italian philhellenes continued to support Greece politically and militarily. For example, Ricciotti Garibaldi led a volunteer expedition (Garibaldini) in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.[12] A group of Garibaldini, headed by the Greek poet Lorentzos Mavilis, fought also with the Greek side during the Balkan Wars.

20th century[edit]

In early 1912, during the Italo-Turkish War, Italy occupied the predominantly Greek-inhabited Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea from the Ottoman Empire. Although later with the 1919 Venizelos–Tittoni agreement, Italy promised to cede them to Greece, Carlo Sforza in 1920 renounced the accord.[13]

In 1913, after the end of the First Balkan War, lands of Northern Epirus were ceded to Greece, but Italy challenged the decision and in the Treaty of London the region was given to the newly created Albania. The local Greek population was enraged and created the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus, before it was reluctantly ceded to Albania, with peace assured by Italian peacekeeping force until 1919.[14] Italy rejected the decision because it didn't want Greece to control both sides of the Straits of Corfu.[15] In addition, although Sazan Island was ceded to Greece in 1864 as part of the Diapontia Islands, Greece ceded the island to the newly independent Albania in 1914 after the pressure of Italy, and since Greece didn't want to risk a war with Italy. Italy took possession of the island in 1920 and kept it through World War II.

During the World War I, both Italy and Greece were members of the Allies and fought against the Central Powers but when the Italians found that Greece had been promised land in Anatolia at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, the Italian delegation withdrew from the conference for several months. Italy occupied parts of Anatolia which threatened the Greek occupation zone and the city of Smyrna. Greek troops were landed and the Greco-Turkish War (1919–22) began with Greek troops advanced into Anatolia. Turkish forces eventually defeated the Greeks and with Italian aid, recovered the lost territory, including Smyrna.[16]

When the Italian fascists gained power in 1922, they persecuted the Greek-speakers in Italy.[17] In addition, the Greeks in Dodecanese and Northern Epirus, which back then were under Italian occupation and influence respectively, were persecuted.[18][19]

In 1923, the new Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini used the murder of an Italian general on the Greco-Albanian border as a pretext to bombard and temporarily occupy Corfu, due to Corfu's strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea.[20][21][22]

Eleftherios Venizelos signs the Treaty of Friendship with Italy in Rome on 23 September 1928, while Benito Mussolini looks on

The Greek general Theodoros Pangalos, who governed Greece as a dictator in 1925–26, sought to revise the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and launch a revanchist war against Turkey. To this end, Pangalos sought Italian diplomatic support, as Italy still had ambitions in Anatolia, but in the event, nothing came of his overtures to Mussolini.[23] After the fall of Pangalos and the restoration of relative political stability in 1926, efforts were undertaken to normalize relations with Greece's neighbours. To this end, the Greek government, especially Foreign Minister Andreas Michalakopoulos, put renewed emphasis on improving relations with Italy, leading to the signature of a trade agreement in November 1926. The Italian–Greek rapprochement had a positive impact on Greek relations with other Balkan countries, and after 1928 was continued by the new government of Eleftherios Venizelos, culminating in the treaty of friendship signed by Venizelos in Rome on 23 September 1928.[24] Mussolini favoured this treaty, as it aided in his efforts to diplomatically isolate Yugoslavia from potential Balkan allies. An offer of alliance between the two countries was rebuffed by Venizelos but during the talks Mussolini personally offered "to guarantee Greek sovereignty" on Macedonia and assured Venizelos that in case of an external attack on Thessaloniki by Yugoslavia, Italy would join Greece.[25][26]

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mussolini sought diplomatically to create "an Italian-dominated Balkan bloc that would link Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Hungary". Venizelos countered the policy with diplomatic agreements among Greek neighbours and established an "annual Balkan conference ... to study questions of common interest, particularly of an economic nature, with the ultimate aim of establishing some kind of regional union". This increased diplomatic relations and by 1934 was resistant to "all forms of territorial revisionism".[27] Venizelos adroitly maintained a principle of "open diplomacy" and was careful not to alienate traditional Greek patrons in Britain and France.[28] The Greco-Italian friendship agreement ended Greek diplomatic isolation and the beginning of a series of bilateral agreements, most notably the Greco-Turkish Friendship Convention in 1930. This process culminated in the signature of the Balkan Pact between Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Romania, which was a counter to Bulgarian revisionism.[29]

Italy, an Axis power, invaded Greece in the Greco-Italian War of 1940–41, but it was only with German intervention that the Axis succeeded in controlling Greece. Italian forces were part of the Axis occupation of Greece. Italy ceded the Dodecanese to Greece as part of the Treaty of Peace following World War II in 1947. As a consequence most of the Italians emigrated. After World War II and at the end of the Italian fascist regime, relations between the two countries were significally improved. Many Greeks, mostly leftists, found also refuge in Italy during the Greek military junta years. Today, there are still historical Greek communities in Italy and Italian communities in Greece.

21st century[edit]

Relations between the two countries have stayed strong in the 21st century. In December 2022, Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni referred to the "close relationship" between Greece and Italy, mentioning the common issues, interests and approaches both countries share. She encouraged that Greece and Italy's cooperation and work together "must continue".[30] Meloni also said that she is "extremely interested in working to further enhance bilateral relations with Greece" to solve migration crises.[31] Meloni and Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met each other in Brussels on 15 December 2022. Meloni called the meeting "cordial and fruitful", while both gave a "shared will" to strengthen relations even further.[32]

Bilateral relations and cooperation[edit]

Greece–Italy pipeline. A map showing the approximate locations of natural gas pipelines through Greece to Italy

Greece is one of Italy's main economic partners and they co-operate in many fields, including judicial, scientific and educational, and on the development of tourism, an important sector in both countries. There are regular high-level visits between the two countries,[33] such as the visit of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Italy in July 2014,[34][35] and there are frequent contacts between the two countries at ministerial level on various matters concerning individual sectors.

Current projects between the two countries include the Greece–Italy pipeline (which is part of the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline (ITGI)), and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Military collaboration[edit]

Greece and Italy are NATO allies and maintain a close military cooperation. The exercise "Italic Weld", which was a combined air-naval-ground exercise in northern Italy involving the United States, Italy, Turkey, and Greece, appears to have been one of the first exercises in which the new Italian Army orientation was tested.[36]

An Italian military contingent participated in a NATO mission to assist Greece in ensuring security during the 2004 Summer Olympics.[37]

The two countries, along with the United States, also are participating in large-scale military drills conducted on annual basis by non-NATO member Israel, which are code-named "Blue Flag", and which take place in the region of eastern Mediterranean.[38][39]

On March 27 2017, Italy participated in "Iniochus 2017" military exercise, which is organized annually by Greece, along with the United States, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.[40][41]

Multilateral organizations[edit]

Both countries are full members of many international organizations, including NATO, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OECD and the WTO. Greece and Italy were also part of the European Territorial Cooperation Programme (2007–2013), for the boost of cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cultural interaction[edit]

The Hellenic Institute for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies opened in Venice in 1951, providing for the study of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine history in Italy.

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Atene in Athens is responsible for promoting Italian culture in Greece.

In July 2014, an official artistic exhibition with the title "Italy – Greece: one face, one race" was inaugurated in Rome on the occasion of the passing of the EU Council Presidency from Greece to Italy.[42][43][44][45][46] The title of the exhibition refers to a Greek saying, "μια φάτσα μια ράτσα" (mia fatsa mia ratsa, cf. Italian una faccia, una razza), often used in Greece and Italy to express the perception of close cultural affinities between Greeks and Italians.[47] The term is often believed to have originated in the Italian-occupied Dodecanese Islands in an attempt to unite the people living there,[citation needed] however modern-day Greeks and Italians have since adopted the term for themselves.[47]

Ethnic minorities[edit]

Greeks have lived in southern Italy (Magna Grecia) for millennia, and today are called Griko.[48] There are also Italians in Corfu.


  • Economic Cooperation (1949)
  • Avoidance of double Taxation (1964)
  • Delimitation of Continental Shelf Boundaries (1977)
  • Protection of the Ionian Sea Marine Environment (1979)
  • Cooperation against Terrorism, Organised Crime, and Drug Trafficking (1986)

Notable visits[edit]

  • January 2006; state visit of the Greek President Karolos Papoulias to Rome.
  • December 2006; Visit of the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to Athens.
  • March 2007; official visit of the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to Rome.
  • August 2007; meeting of the Greek Foreign Minister with her Italian counterpart Massimo D'Alema in Rome.
  • September 2008; state visit of the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to Athens.
  • August 2012; visit of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Rome.
  • September 2012; visit of the Greek President Karolos Papoulias to Italy.
  • October 2013; meeting of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras with his Italian counterpart in Rome.
  • July 2014; visit of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Italy.
  • February 2015; meeting of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi in Rome.


The Italian ports of Bari, Brindisi, Ancona, Venice and Trieste on the Adriatic Sea's Italian coast have daily passenger and freight ferries to the Greek ports of Corfu, Patra, Igoumenitsa and Kalamata, avoiding overland transit via the Balkan Peninsula.

Resident diplomatic missions[edit]

  • Greece has an embassy in Rome and consulates-general in Milan and a consulate in Venice.
  • Italy has an embassy in Athens.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pavlopoulos and Mattarella confirm the longstanding Greek-Italian friendship (Παυλόπουλος και Ματαρέλα επιβεβαίωσαν τη μακρόχρονη ελληνοϊταλική φιλία)". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Pavlopoulos - Mattarella: Strong friendship and a common vision between Greece and Italy (Παυλόπουλος - Ματαρέλα: Δυνατή φιλία και κοινή οπτική μεταξύ Ελλάδας και Ιταλίας)". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Greece-Italy alliance (Ελλάδα-Ιταλία συμμαχία)". Archived from the original on 6 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  4. ^ "A medal of honor for the Greek-Italian relations (Ενα παράσημο για τις ελληνοϊταλικές σχέσεις)". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Restrictions for Italian tourists are lifted (Original: Αίρονται οι περιορισμοί για τους Ιταλούς τουρίστες". Naftemporiki. 9 June 2020. Retrieved 9 June 2020. Luigi Di Maio expressed his gratitude to the Greek people and the Greek government for their solidarity and support [to Italy] in tackling the pandemic, noting that the two countries are united by the deepest ties. (Original: Τις ευχαριστίες του στον ελληνικό λαό και την κυβέρνηση για την αλληλεγγύη τους και τη στήριξη στην αντιμετώπιση της πανδημίας εξέφρασε ο Λουίτζι ντι Μάιο, σημειώνοντας πως τις δύο χώρες ενώνουν βαθύτατοι δεσμοί.)
  6. ^ "Agenda 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Italy Takes Over EU Presidency From Greece". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  8. ^ "The Italian Presidency strongly supports the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Greece's EU Presidency and the Challenge of Western Balkan Enlargement Policies in Light of the Crisis" (PDF). suedosteuropa.uni. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Israel hosts international air drill". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  11. ^ "18 aprile 1861: Grecia" Documents on the establishment of diplomatic relationships with Italy Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Gilles Pécout, "Philhellenism in Italy: political friendship and the Italian volunteers in the Mediterranean in the nineteenth century", Journal of Modern Italian Studies 9:4:405-427 (2004) doi:10.1080/1354571042000296380
  13. ^ Verzijl 1970, p. 396.
  14. ^ Hodges, Richard (November 2016). The Archaeology of Mediterranean Placemaking: Butrint and the Global Heritage Industry. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 23. ISBN 978-1350006621.
  15. ^ Lyse Hansen, Inge; Hodges, Richard; Leppard, Sarah (January 2013). Butrint 4: The Archaeology and Histories of an Ionian Town. Oxbow Books. pp. 2, 309. ISBN 978-1842174623.
  16. ^ Plowman 2013, pp. 910.
  17. ^ Minority Rights Group International - Italy - Greek-speakers
  18. ^ Diplomatic documents relating to Italy's aggression against Greece ; the Greek White Book. American Council on Public Affairs. 1943. pp. 5–8.
  19. ^ Edward Capps (1963). Greece, Albania, and northern Epirus. p. 22.
  20. ^ Bell 1997, p. 68.
  21. ^ "The Brisbane Courier". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 11 September 1923. p. 4. Retrieved 31 January 2013."... because there is not the slightest doubt that the real cause of trouble is that old disturbing "Adriatic question " which has been the cause of many Balkan troubles, and is likely to be the cause of many more."
  22. ^ "The Register. ADELAIDE: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1923". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 24 September 1923. p. 6. Retrieved 31 January 2013. "But, though deprived of a base which would have made her control of the Adriatic more secure,..."
  23. ^ Klapsis 2014, pp. 240–259.
  24. ^ Svolopoulos 1978, pp. 343–348.
  25. ^ Kitromilides 2008, p. 217.
  26. ^ Svolopoulos 1978, p. 349.
  27. ^ Steiner 2005, pp. 499–500.
  28. ^ Svolopoulos 1978, pp. 349–350.
  29. ^ Svolopoulos 1978, pp. 352–358.
  30. ^ "Meloni refers to Italy's close relationship with Greece". 30 December 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  31. ^ "Meloni: Greece and Italy can work on a solution to migration; sovereignty over Aegean Islands is undisputed". Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  32. ^ De Palo, Francesco (15 December 2022). "Mediterranean matters: the Meloni-Mitsotakis bilateral". Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  33. ^ "Ελληνική Δημοκρατία - Η Ελλάδα στην Ιταλία".
  34. ^ "PM Samaras has Luncheon with Italian PM Renzi in Florence". 18 July 2014.
  35. ^ "Banks drag general index 0.4 percent lower". 22 November 2001.
  36. ^ "Chapter 9". NATO the first five years 1949–1954. NATO. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  37. ^ "NATO begins security assistance for 2004 Olympics". Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  38. ^ "IAF, US Air Force hold largest joint-military exercise in Israel's history". 25 November 2013.
  39. ^ "Greek forces to train in Israel as Syriza-led government deepens alliance". 5 August 2015.
  40. ^ "Israel, UAE to fly together in Greek air force exercise". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  41. ^ "Pilots from Greece, USA, Italy, Israel and the United Arab Emirates in the "Iniochus 2017" (Πιλότοι από την Ελλάδα, τις ΗΠΑ, την Ιταλία, το Ισραήλ και τα Ηνωμένα Αραβικά Εμιράτα στον "Ηνίοχο 2017")". The Huffington Post Greece. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  42. ^ "Presidenza: Italia-Grecia: una faccia, una razza". EurActiv.It. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  43. ^ "Italia, Grecia, Europa: Nell'arte una faccia, una razza". 10 July 2014.
  44. ^ "Ιταλία-Ελλάδα: Μια φάτσα, μια ράτσα". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  45. ^ "Αποκαλύπτουν τις ομοιότητες Ελλήνων και Ιταλών με την Τέχνη". Newspaper Ethnos. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  46. ^ "Una faccia, una razza. La Grecia, l'Italia e la passione per l'umanità". ArtAPartOfCulture.Net. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  47. ^ a b Benigno, Franco (2006). "Il Mediterraneo dopo Braudel". In Barcellona, Pietro; Ciaramelli, Fabio (eds.). La frontiera mediterranea: tradizioni culturali e sviluppo locale. Bari: Edizioni Dedalo. p. 47.
  48. ^ "DNA Study Pinpoints when the Ancient Greeks Colonized Sicily and Italy".


  • Bell, P. M. H. (1997) [1986]. The Origins of the Second World War in Europe (2nd ed.). London: Pearson. ISBN 978-0-582-30470-3.
  • Kitromilides, Paschalis M. (2008) [2006]. Eleftherios Venizelos: The Trials of Statesmanship. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-3364-7.
  • Klapsis, Antonis (2014). "Attempting to Revise the Treaty of Lausanne: Greek Foreign Policy and Italy during the Pangalos Dictatorship, 1925–1926". Diplomacy & Statecraft. 25 (2): 240–259. doi:10.1080/09592296.2014.907062. S2CID 153689615.
  • Plowman, Jeffrey (2013). War in the Balkans: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940–1941. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-78159-248-9.
  • Steiner, Zara S. (2005). The Lights that Failed: European International History, 1919–1933. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822114-2.
  • Svolopoulos, Konstantinos (1978). "Η εξωτερική πολιτική της Ελλάδος". Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΕ': Νεώτερος ελληνισμός από το 1913 ως το 1941 (in Greek). Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 342–358.
  • Verzijl, J. H. W. (1970). International Law in Historical Perspective (Brill Archive ed.). Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff. ISBN 90-218-9050-X.

External links[edit]