Italian minister Di Maio shows support for French ‘yellow vests’

Luigi Di Maio. [EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO PERI]

Luigi Di Maio, the Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), likened the French ‘yellow vests’ to his own political movement. Moreover, he openly criticised the French government. EURACTIV France reports.

It is rare for an Italian minister to be encouraging a political movement in France.

However, this was the case of Luigi Di Maio, the Italian deputy prime minister and minister of labour. On the 5-Star Movement’s blog, he indeed encouraged the ‘yellow vests’ to continue their struggle.

“Don’t relent,” he urged them. Di Maio’s 5-Star Movement is in a coalition government with the far- right Lega party.

In his message, the 5-Star leader noted that “politics has become deaf to citizen movements,” which are kept away from important decisions.

The minister believed that the strong cry rising from French streets meant “we want to participate” and that this was the same spirit which has animated the 5-Star Movement since it was formed in 2009.

Like in Italy, where the rather populist left-wing movement formed an alliance with the far-right to govern, the ‘yellow vests’ movement attracts both the far-left, which unreservedly supports them, and the far-right, which has had a strong presence in violent demonstrations.

Direct criticism of French interior minister 

The Italian minister also directly attacked the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, in an unusual move that is at odds with the diplomatic customs under which governments refrain from criticising other countries’ domestic policies.

“In the beginning, we had to put up with taunting by old politicians and fierce attacks by the media. They said that there were only a few of us, for example. A little like your interior minister, Castaner, who said yesterday, ’50,000 is just over one person per municipality in France, that’s the reality of the Yellow Vest movement today, we can therefore see that the movement is not representative of France,’” Di Maio said.

“Macron’s government is not up to the expectations and some of the policies he is putting forward, particularly at the European level, are even harmful not only to French citizens but also to Europe,” the Italian minister said, citing migration issues as a prime example.

Di Maio’s choice of strong words shows that the campaign for the European elections is truly getting under way.

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