Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Monday he was ready to meet his French counterpart this week for talks following a spat which saw France recalling its ambassador from Rome.
Ties between the two neighbors sunk to their lowest point since World War II last week after Paris recalled its envoy in protest over a string of jibes by Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, both senior figures in Italy’s populist government.
On Friday, Salvini said he invited his French counterpart Christophe Castaner to Rome for talks, but in an unguarded moment later said he was going “to summon him” – prompting a dry rebuttal by the French minister.
On Monday, he tried again.
“I am ready to welcome him in Rome or to go to Paris, even this week,” he said.
“I think that restoring good relations is fundamental, the earlier the better.”
Why This Matters
The escalating war of words began last year after Di Maio’s Five Star Movement and Salvini’s far-right League won elections and formed a populist, eurosceptic government.
When Italy began barring migrant boats from docking at its ports, French President Emmanuel Macron blasted Rome’s “cynicism and irresponsibility,” comparing the rise of far-right nationalism to leprosy and prompting a string of tit-for-tat insults.
“We have entered an age of irresponsibility from our politicians… they are ignoring European history. Our default setting, despite 70 years of peace, is war”
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 7, 2019
Ahead of the European Parliament elections in May, Salvini and Di Maio – both of whom are deputy prime ministers – have made a series of increasingly personal attacks on Macron.
But the diplomatic straw that broke the camel’s back was Di Maio’s meeting last Tuesday with the “yellow vest” protesters who have staged months of anti-government demonstrations across France, many of which have turned violent.
Two days later, France recalled its ambassador, sparking the biggest crisis between the two founding members of the European Union since the war ended in 1945.
More on the Subject
Italy’s deputy prime minister on Friday defended his unannounced trip to meet with anti-government protesters in France this week, which has sparked fury in Paris and the biggest diplomatic crisis between the allies since World War II.
Luigi Di Maio accused French governments on both the left and right of pursuing “ultraliberal” policies that have “increased citizens’ insecurity and sharply reduced their spending power” in a letter to French daily Le Monde on Friday.
“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.