France says ‘unacceptable’ that Italy’s Di Maio met ‘yellow vests’

Luigi Di Maio, 4th from right, Christophe Chalencon 5th from right. [@luigidimaio Twitter]

The French foreign ministry on Wednesday (6 February) denounced as “unacceptable” a meeting between Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and France’s “yellow vest” anti-government protesters.

“This new provocation is unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the European Union,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement a day after Di Maio met the protesters on French soil.

“Mr Di Maio, who has governmental responsibilities, should ensure that he does not impair with its repeated interferences our bilateral relations, in the interest of both France and Italy,” the spokesman said.

Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), announced Tuesday he had met near Paris with yellow vest leader Christophe Chalencon and Ingrid Levavasseur, who is heading a yellow vest list for European Parliament elections in May.

He invited them and other yellow vests to a follow-up meeting in Rome, claiming on Twitter that “The wind of change has crossed the Alps.”

Tensions have flared between the two countries since the Five Star Movement and far-right League party came to power in a coalition in Italy last June.

Di Maio had already drawn Paris’s ire after he accused France of fuelling the migrant influx to Europe by continuing to “colonise” Africa.

That prompted France to summon Italy’s ambassador in protest.

France summons Italian envoy over Di Maio Africa comments

France has summoned Italy’s ambassador to protest against comments by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who accused Paris of continuing to colonise Africa and causing people to migrate from the continent, a government source told AFP.

And De Maio’s fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, has lambasted President Emmanuel Macron directly by saying he is “close, with all my heart… to the French people, the millions of men and women who live in France under a terrible government and terrible president”.

The “yellow vest” protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in late November, before ballooning into a wider revolt against Macron’s policies and governing style.

The French president is hoping to forge an alliance of pro-European centrists ahead of the bloc’s parliamentary vote, against a wave of populist movements in several European countries.

Increasing number of ‘yellow vest’ lists for European elections

With the announcement of a third ‘yellow vest’ list for the European elections, the movement seems to be divided. However, it has managed to make taxation one of the central issues of the May 2019 vote for French people. EURACTIV France reports.

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