by Eric J. Lyman
ROME, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Italy's freshly-installed populist government has been billing itself as a "government of change". But expert observers said they do not expect much variation in the way the country conducts extra-European foreign policy compared to other recent governments.
The anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the nationalist League, the two parties supporting the new government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, both ran campaigns promising to weaken or change the nature of the ties between Rome and Brussels.
And Conte's appointment of euro-skeptic economist Paolo Savona as minister of European Affairs added fuel to those concerns from pro-European corners.
But beyond the borders of the European Union (EU), observers told Xinhua Italy will most likely stay the course.
"I don't expect many incongruities compared to what happened in the recent past," Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, a former diplomat who used to work in Italian embassies in Algiers, Paris, and Beijing, and now president of Italy's Institute For Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua. "The appointment of Enzo Moavero Milanesi is proof this is the one area where the new government does not wish to take chances."
Milanesi, a well-regarded former minister of European affairs under prime ministers Mario Monti and Enrico Letta, is Italy's new minister of foreign affairs. He has never been a member of either of the parties backing the current government.
"The appointment of Milanesi has to be seen as reassuring, particularly in the context of so many surprise choices as ministers," Antonio Villafranca, research coordinator with the Institute for the Study of International Politics. "The minister of foreign affairs is the face of the country in the world and it is important to have a known and respected figure in that role."
Feroci said it is unclear how much sway Milanesi will have over policy: "Conte is in the same position," he said, adding Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and the League's Matteo Salvini may call the shots behind the scenes.
According to analysts, the main foreign policy issues Italy will face are its ties with some major powers, including the United States.
In 2016, before either man was in any kind of national leadership role, the League's Matteo Salvini traveled to the United States and posed for a photo with U.S. President Donald Trump, and he has expressed admiration for the U.S. leader. Additionally, Steve Bannon, one of the architects of Trump's election triumph, advised Salvini and the League this year.
"I think it's reasonable these two allies could see new ties," Feroci said. With an export-driven economy, Italy will be particularly conscious of any U.S. policies that could have an impact in that area.
In the ties with Russia, Conte said in an address to Italy's Senate on Tuesday that the West should "rethink" sanctions against Russia. And Salvini has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Salvini has pro-Russian sympathies, but Italy has always had stronger ties with Russia than many other EU states," Villafranca said.
On Iran nuclear deal, Feroci said "Italy has been a supporter of the (anti-nuclear) deal with Iran, but with the United States backing out and imposing sanctions, Italian companies will have to decide if the United States or Iran is a more important market for them."