A war of words between the French and Italian governments is heating up as Emmanuel Macron’s minister for European affairs says they are refusing to join a so-called “stupidity contest” with Rome.
“There are several things we need to do with our important neighbor Italy, and we want to continue to be able to work together,” Nathalie Loiseau said on Wednesday.
“Does that mean the current environment permits ministerial visits as if nothing has happened? I will go to Italy once things have settled down,” she added, pouring cold water on the prospect of detente any time soon.
In fact, there was one “diplomatic meeting” this week, but there was presumably little in the way of reducing tensions as France summoned Italy’s ambassador in protest over Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio’s comments that France’s supposed ongoing colonization of Africa had directly contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe.
“The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave,” Di Maio said Monday, as cited by AFP.
Tensions have flared between the two countries ever since the populist coalition government led by the Five Star Movement and the far-right League party came to power in Italy last June.
Macron has criticised the Italian coalition government for not backing his proposed pro-Europe alliance of parties ahead of EU parliamentary elections in May, while Italy’s Deputy PM Matteo Salvini has used the ongoing Yellow Vest protests as a stick with which to verbally beat the French president repeatedly in the media.
“It seems to me that Macron has his issues with millions of French to whom he made promises and did not deliver,” Salvini said in a radio interview.
The contagion has spread to relations with Germany following Salvini’s remarks Monday in which he described Angela Merkel as “weak.”
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