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To the north, Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and its borders are largely naturally defined by the Alpine watershed. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula and the two largest Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia as well as around 68 smaller islands. There are two small independent states within Italy: the Vatican City in Rome, and the Republic of San Marino.
The most important sectors of Italy’s economy in 2012 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (20.6 %) and industry (18.4 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (16.9 %).
Italy’s main export partners are Germany, France and the US while its main import partners are Germany, France and China.
Geographical size: 301 336 km2
Population: 59 394 207 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 11.8 % (2012)
GDP: € 1.567 trillion (2012)
Official EU language(s): Italian
Political system: parliamentary republic
EU member country since: 25 March 1957
Seats in the European Parliament: 73
Currency: Eurozone member since 1 January 1999
Passport-free travel? Yes, Schengen Area member since 27 November 1990
Presidency of the Council: Italy has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 12 times between 1959 and 2014.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Italian government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of Italian presidencies:
Jul-Dec 1959 | Jul-Dec 1962 | Jul-Dec 1965 | Jul-Dec 1968 | Jul-Dec 1971 | Jul-Dec 1975 | Jan-Jun 1980 | Jan-Jun 1985 | Jul-Dec 1990 | Jan-Jun 1996 | Jul-Dec 2003 | Jul-Dec 2014
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commissioner nominated by Italy to the European Commission is Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
Italy has 24 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
Italy has 24 representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
Italy also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As Italy's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of Italy’s finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by Italy helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how Italy benefits from EU funding.