Italy, France tensions deepen further amid war of words

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 29.01.2019 00:08

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that he will not respond to criticism by populist Italian leaders Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini because their words are of "no interest." "I will not respond. That's what they want [for me to respond]... all of that is of no interest," the French head of state told reporters on the first day of a visit to Egypt. "The Italian people are our friends and deserve leaders who match their history," he added.

It was France's turn to summon Italy's ambassador after Salvini's fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused Paris of continuing to colonize Africa and causing people to migrate from the continent. The neighbors have often had turbulent relations, but the climate has seriously deteriorated since Western Europe's first populist government came to power in June in Italy, a founding member of the European Union.

While Conte has recently spoken of the "historical friendship" between France and Italy, his interior minister Salvini has been trying to organize a far-right challenge to pro-Europeans within the EU bloc, and has said he hopes that the French people will soon be free of a "very bad president." "I am close, with all my heart and all my work, to the French people, the millions of men and women who live in France with a very bad government and a very bad president," Salvini said in a video on his Facebook page.

The two governments have notably clashed over migration while triggering a diplomatic spat between France and Italy over migration. Twice the French ambassador to Rome, Christian Masset, has been summoned, and both times it was to be given an earful over the hottest issue in Italy today: migration. Of all the European countries accused of turning a blind eye to a migration crisis, which saw tens of thousands of people land in Italy, Paris's perceived betrayal has hit the hardest.

In another example of souring relations between the two countries, De Maio's populist 5-Star Movement (M5S) is also courting France's "yellow vest" anti-government movement and has repeatedly criticized Macron. The protesters drew support from the leading figures of the populist government in Rome as they urged the yellow vests to continue, in comments which risk ramping up Italy's war of words with Macron. "Yellow vests, do not weaken!" Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment M5S , wrote on his party's blog. Taking Italy's prominent figures' overt support for the yellow vest protesters into account, the French government has decried foreign powers that give support for vandalism across the country.

Compiled from wires

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