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|in Southern Europe, and on the two largest islands in the
Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern
Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are
enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, while Campione d'Italia is an
Italian exclave in Switzerland.
Italy has been the home of many European cultures, such as the
Etruscans and the Romans, and later was the birthplace of the
movement of the Italian Renaissance. Italy's capital Rome has been
the center of Western Civilization, and is the center of the Catholic
Church. Today, Italy is a democratic republic, and a developed
country with the 7th-highest GDP (nominal) and the 17th-highest
Human Development Index rating in the world. It is a founding
member of what is now the European Union (having signed the
Treaty of Rome in 1957), and also a member of the G8, the Council
of Europe, the Western European Union, and the Central European
Initiative. Beginning January 1, 2007, Italy became a non-permanent
member of the United Nations Security Council. The origin of the
term "Italy", from Latin Ītalia, is uncertain. According to one of the
more common explanations, the term was borrowed through Greek,
from Oscan Víteliú, meaning "land of young cattle" and named for
the god of cattle, Mars. The bull was a symbol of the southern Italian
tribes and is often depicted goring the Roman wolf as a defiant
symbol of free Italy during the Samnite Wars.
The name Italia applied to a part of what is now southern Italy.
According to Antiochus of Syracuse, it originally only referred to the
southern portion of the Bruttium peninsula (modern Calabria), but by
his time Oenotria and Italy had become synonymous, and the name
also applied to most of Lucania as well. The Greeks gradually came
to use the name "Italia" for a greater region, but it was not until the
time of the Roman conquests that the term was expanded to cover
the entire peninsula. Italy is a long peninsula shaped like a boot,
surrounded on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the east by
the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by France, Switzerland, Austria, and
Slovenia to the north. The Apennine Mountains form the peninsula's
backbone; the Alps form its northern boundary. The largest of its
northern lakes is Garda (143 sq mi; 370 km²); the Po, its principal
river, flows from the Alps on Italy's western border and crosses the
Padan plain to the Adriatic Sea. Several islands form part of Italy;
the largest are Sicily (9,926 sq mi; 25,708 km²) and Sardinia (9,301
sq mi; 24,090 km²).
Italy was a founding member of the European Community--now the
European Union (EU). Italy was admitted to the United Nations in
1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and
the Council of Europe. Its recent turns as rotating Presidency of
international organisations include the CSCE (the forerunner of the
OSCE) in 1994 G-8, the EU in 2001 and from July to December
Italy supports the United Nations and its international security activities.
Italy deployed troops in support of UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia,
Mozambique, and East Timor and provides support for NATO and UN
operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. Italy deployed over 2,000
troops to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in
February 2003. Italy still supports international efforts to reconstruct and
stabilize Iraq, but it has withdrawn its military contingent of some 3,200
troops as of November 2006, maintaining only humanitarian workers and
other civilian personnel.
In August 2006 Italy sent about 3,000 soldiers to Lebanon for the ONU
peacekeeping mission UNIFIL. Furthermore, since 2 February 2007 an
Italian, Claudio Graziano is the commander of the UN force in the country.