The repeated expressions of support from the Italian Government for the revolt of the yellow vests have filled the patience of French President Emmanuel Macron. Paris called on Thursday to its ambassador in Rome in response to what he considers an “interference” and a “lack of respect” that has created a situation “unprecedented since the end of the war” between the two founding partners of the Union European In the context of the European elections next May, both the liberal Macron and the Italian populist leaders propose the campaign as a clash between the respective visions of Europe.
The trigger for this diplomatic crisis was the meeting held in Paris by the Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, on Tuesday, February 5, with several representatives of the French yellow vests, a protest movement that emerged in November and whose sectors radicals seek the fall of Macron. Di Maio, leader of the 5 Star Movement (M5S, in its Italian acronym) met with two figures of the movement.
One is Ingrid Levavasseur, member of a new party that wants to present itself to the European ones. The other is Christophe Chalençon, who in December said that “a civil war [in France] is inevitable” and that, if the president of the Republic did not yield, “it is up to the military to come into play.”
The last time Paris called its ambassador in Rome for consultations was in 1940 after Italy declared war on France in World War II. “For months, France has been the target of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks, offensive statements that everyone knows and has in mind,” the Quai d’Orsay, headquarters of the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This is unprecedented since the end of the war.”
Disagreeing for something is one thing, but instrumentalizing a relationship for electoral purposes is something different. The latest interferences constitute a supplementary and unacceptable provocation. They violate the respect due to the democratic election made by friendly and allied people, they violate the respect that democratic and freely elected governments owe each other. ”
The Quai d’Orsay adds that “all these acts create a serious situation that raises questions about the intentions of the Italian Government regarding its relationship with France.” And concludes: “In light of this unprecedented situation, the French Government has decided to call the French ambassador to Italy for consultations, France calls on Italy to act to rediscover the relationship of friendship and reciprocal respect, at the height of our history and our common destiny “.
In diplomatic language, the call to consultations is an “order sent to a head of mission by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the sending State to urgently come forward in order to report on a particular matter and receive specific instructions,” according to the Glossary of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this case, it means that Christian Masset, French ambassador in Rome, must return to Paris to consult with the French ministry on the steps to follow.
Di Maio’s visit to France added to other gestures and declarations of support for the yellow vests in recent weeks, coming both from Di Maio and from his partner and strongman of the Italian Government, Matteo Salvini, next to Marine Le Pen, French rival of Macron and leader of the National Regroupment, heir of the far-right party National Front. “Macron is no longer my adversary, he is no longer a problem for me, it is a problem for the French,” Salvini congratulated himself when the French revolt broke out, and Italian leaders identified a populist movement in yellow vests with features similar to of the parties and movements that they lead.
The tension is not new. Before, the reason for disagreement was immigration. The battle for border control is still open. France deployed first to the Gendarmerie in some key points, causing settlements of migrants to the other side -Ventimiglia or Claviere- and the wrath of Italy. Salvini, the first in the League Government and 5 Star Movement to set the political objective against Macron, accused Paris of returning hot dozens of migrants.
One of the latest disagreements, in addition to the accusations of colonialism or skirmishes for the leadership in the pacification of Libya, occurred as a result of the extradition of terrorist Cesare Battisti from Bolivia to Italy. For years, the former member of the Armed Forces for Communism (PAC), a wing of the Red Brigades, lived in France covered by a law promulgated by François Mitterrand that allowed it – without attending to requests for extradition – provided that the armed struggle. Battisti, like so many others, was condemned and fled from the justice of Italy. Salvini took advantage of his return to accuse France of continuing to protect other terrorists.
The attempted seduction of the M5S to the yellow vests – next week another meeting is planned in Rome – has two aspects. On the one hand, it seeks to upset Macron and feed the anti-European instinct of a good part of its voters. On the other, it is due to the sheer need to find allies in Europe to attend the next elections in May. The grillings aspire to have a group of their own in the Parliament, but for this, they will need a seven-party meeting from seven different states. For now, there is despair. More taking into account that the League, your partner of Government, already has a very advanced plan.