The head of Macron’s party described Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s immigration policy as inhumane following a string of insults from the French side, which has left Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini angered while Meloni focuses on turning the page.
Last week, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reignited a diplomatic crisis between France and Italy when he said Meloni was “incapable of solving migration problems” in her country despite her election promises to set up a “naval blockade”.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani denounced “a gratuitous and vulgar insult to a friendly, allied country,” adding that he expected an apology from Paris.
To calm things down, his French counterpart Catherine Colonna called him twice, Tajani said.
To smoothen things out further, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told a press conference on Friday that “Italy is an essential partner of France and that our relationship is based on mutual respect.” Priority should be given to “consultation and a calm dialogue to continue working together”, Borne added.
“There was no desire to ostracise Italy in any way”, said Damanin, while the French government spokesperson Olivier Véran said his colleague in the interior ministry did not intend to create controversy.
Véran’s words “go in the right direction”, said Tajani, acknowledging they come from “someone who has realised that he has made a serious mistake” offending the Italian government.
“We are not an extreme right-wing government. Some tones can be spared, and I hope they are just the words of a minister in an election campaign. We have no desire to break off relations with France”, Tajani told Rai News 24.
But, things did not end there.
On Wednesday, MEP Stéphane Séjourné, the secretary general of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, angered Italy again by saying that “Meloni is doing a lot of demagoguery on immigration” and described her policy as “unjust, inhumane and ineffective”, reported Le Figaro.
For him, “the French far-right is taking the example of the Italian far-right. We must denounce their incompetence”, Séjourné added.
Salvini reacted by calling Séjourné’s rhetoric “unacceptable and offensive”. “France cannot lecture anyone. They shall pay respect to the Italian government”, he wrote on Twitter.
According to Meloni, who visited Prague on Wednesday to meet her Czech counterpart, Petr Fiala, the statements against her on migration were made to “settle internal scores” aimed at maintaining electoral consensus in France.
“I don’t think it’s ideal on the level of politics and etiquette, but everyone makes the choices they want to make (…) I don’t want to get into it, I understand the difficulties. I don’t think it’s a problem they have with us”, she added.
In France, the crisis between France and Italy is an opportunity for the right and the far-right to attack Macron’s government. Meloni “is more effective than Gérald Darmanin”, the head of the Les Républicains (EPP) group in the National Assembly, Olivier Marleix, told BFMTV on Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday, during government question time in the French National Assembly, far-right MP Alexandra Masson (Rassemblement National/ID) expressed concern about “disastrous comments and actions” and “irresponsible statements” by Interior Minister Darmanin.
The latter first indicated that the response to the migration crisis was European, as “we need […] external controls at Europe’s borders, a single asylum procedure, and a review of the Dublin Regulation”.
However, he lamented that “our Italian friends hardly ever take back people ‘dublined’”, i.e. people who should go back to the first EU country in which they arrived as the Dublin regulation on immigration states.
He then denounced the attitude of the Rassemblement National (ID), which “voted against the negotiating mandate so that these problems could be solved”.
In contrast, Rassemblement National’s Italian allies from Lega and MEPs from Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (ECR) voted in favour of the package.
(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr ; Federica Pascale | EURACTIV.it)
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