France recalls Italy's envoy over 'unprecedented' criticism
Updated 23:04, 07-Feb-2019
CGTN

France's foreign ministry said Thursday it had recalled its ambassador to Rome for consultations after a series of "provocations" by Italy's populist government.

"For several months France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks, and outlandish claims," the ministry said in a statement, calling them "unprecedented" since the end of WWII. 

Tensions between Paris and Rome have escalated since June when the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League party came to power in Italy in a coalition government.

Senior officials in the coalition have done away with diplomatic niceties in their criticism of President Emmanuel Macron, who has made no secret of his goal to combat populist movements among European Union (EU) members.

The latest spat erupted on Tuesday after Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and Five Star Chief Luigi Di Maio said he had met with "yellow vest" anti-government protesters outside Paris. 

The "yellow vest" general strike march in Paris, France, February 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

The "yellow vest" general strike march in Paris, France, February 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

He said the aim was to prepare a common front for European Parliament elections in May while boasting on Twitter that "the wind of change has crossed the Alps."

"The most recent interferences constitute an additional and unacceptable provocation," the French foreign ministry said. "To disagree is one thing, to exploit a relationship for electoral aims is another," it added.  

The "yellow vest" protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in November, but have ballooned into a wider revolt against Macron's policies and governing style.

Di Maio had already denounced the French government for protecting the elite and the privileged, saying "a new Europe is being born of the 'yellow vests', of movements, of direct democracy."

De Maio's fellow Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has also lambasted Macron directly.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio attends the new income support scheme known as the "citizens' income" presentation in Rome, Italy, February 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio attends the new income support scheme known as the "citizens' income" presentation in Rome, Italy, February 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

"I hope the French will be able to free themselves of a terrible president," Salvini said in a Facebook video last month.

The Italian government does not want to fall out with France, Salvini said on Thursday, adding he would be happy to meet Macron to discuss recent tensions.

(Cover: The French national flag and the EU flag (R) flutter outside the French Embassy at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, June 13, 2018. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): AFP