FRANCE-ITALY; SEEDS OF DISCONTENT

France has recalled its envoy from Rome after it became known that one of Italy’s Dy. Prime ministers had a secret meeting with leaders of “Yellow Vest’ protestors in France.  

BY DANFES                                                                                                                                              

In an unprecedented souring of relations between two EU founding members over what France calls unwanted intervention by Italy during the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement, the two nations continue to hurl charges at each other that show no signs of abatement. The trigger they say was the unannounced meeting by one of Italy’s deputy Prime ministers Luigi di Maio with the leaders of the ‘Yellow Vest’ unrest that crippled the French nation for over a month & a half.

France is considered more receiving of the migrants as opposed to the more rigid, nationalist, protective Italy. In a fresh blow to the warring nation’s attempts at a thaw, French President likened the coalition government in Italy & their dependence on the EU to “national leprosy”. One may recall that France has already recalled its ambassador from Rome in protest against what they have slammed as non-courteous, unnecessary move by the Italian dy. prime minister. It is the first time since World War II that France had to recall its envoy from its neighbouring country.

Not surprisingly the EU parliament called this development a meddling by Italy in the internal affairs of France & dismissed former’s stance of it being a mere courtesy. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani described Italy as ‘isolated’ due to an ongoing spat with France. The last straw was a tweet from Italian deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio this week, showing him meeting with a group of French “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vest”) protest leaders.”The wind of change has crossed the Alps,” di Maio wrote.”This is a big mistake of the vice Prime Minister Mr Di Maio to go to the Gilets Jaunes in France,” Tajani remarked to Euro news’ Foteini Doulgkeri in Athens.

The French foreign ministry said it was an “unacceptable provocation,” and recalled its ambassador Christian Masset back to Paris “for consultations”.”There are problems,” conceded the EP president, “but this is not a good choice to attack in favour of gilets jaunes. We are in favour of police. We are in favour of workers. We are against violence. This is a big Italian mistake.” In a statement, the French foreign ministry also accused di Maio of electioneering at the expense of France. “Disagreeing is one thing, exploiting relations for electoral ends is another,” the ministry wrote.

European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber also weighed in on the bilateral tension, telling the Italian government: “Stop complaining to Paris, to Brussels, or to Berlin about your economic problems. Take over your responsibility.””We have in Europe generally an atmosphere where we attack each other,” Weber added. “Where the member states attack each other; and we have to come back to a spirit of cooperation, of compromise, of sitting together and solving problems together.” It does not help the matters if Italian government members Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini continue to criticise President Macron’s economic and migration policies, with Mr Salvini calling him a “terrible president”.

Referring to the ambassadorial withdrawal, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said: “It’s not a permanent recall, but it was important to make a statement because Italy is a historic ally and is also a founding member of the European Union.”While the row had been brewing for months, Paris removed the gloves this week after Mr Di Maio, head of the Five Star movement, held a surprise meeting with the leaders of Yellow Vest protestors in France who have called for Mr Macron to resign.”The most basic courtesy would have been to notify the government,” said Mr Griveaux. France’s Europe affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said the decision to recall France’s ambassador “isn’t about being dramatic. It’s about saying ‘playtime is over'”.

Mr Griveaux dismissed suggestions that France had sparked the spat because of Mr Macron’s previous criticisms of Mr Di Maio and Mr Salvini, the far-Right leader. “If they felt targeted, that’s their problem,” he said, adding that their “snide remarks” had not stopped Italy falling into recession.”“We don’t make snide remarks,” said Mr Griveaux, before going on to equate nationalism with leprosy, a comparison Mr Macron had already made in June, angering Mr Salvini.

“What is of interest to me is that people in Europe do better and if we can beat back nationalist leprosy, populism, mistrust of Europe,” he said. Mr Di Maio, meanwhile, remained unrepentant about his visit with anti-government protesters in France. In a letter to French daily Le Monde, he accused successive French governments of pursuing ultraliberal policies that have “increased citizen’s insecurity and sharply reduced their spending power”. “This is why I wanted to meet with ‘yellow vest’ representatives. because I don’t believe that Europe’s political future lies with parties on the Right or Left, or with so-called ‘new’ parties that in reality follow tradition,” he said.

“It’s a political game,” on France’s part, Di Maio said. “Free movement exists in Europe, and the meeting didn’t cost the French taxpayer anything.” An open EU “shouldn’t just be for permitting free circulation of goods and people, but also the free circulation of political forces that have a European outlook,” he said in a video uploaded to his Face book page. Di Maio also threatened to cancel a planned high-speed rail link between France and Italy. At the same time, Italy’s other deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini of the League party, who is also interior minister, invited his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, to come to Rome for a “fruitful exchange of ideas” and “to confirm a concrete willingness to cooperate” on shared interests. Mostly absent from the dispute was Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a political novice who was put forward by the League and M5S as a compromise who has let his deputies play an unusually prominent role in policymaking.

Tensions between Italy & France have been brewing ever since a populist government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and nationalist League (Lega) party, took office in Rome last June. One of the main commonalities of the two seemingly disparate parties is their anti-immigration stance, which has put them at odds with France and other EU nations, including Germany. Furthermore the Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, told yellow vest leaders they could use M5S’s web portal, which helps individuals communicate their opinions on policy to political leaders.