France defends decision to recall envoy from Italy

The French government took a dig at Italy’s populist leaders and the country’s economic problems on Friday, while defending its decision to recall its Ambassador to Rome. Paris summoned back its Ambassador in Rome for consultations on Thursday for the first time since Second World War, a symbolic move that underlined the depths of ill-will between the two capitals. “It’s not a permanent recall, but it was important to make a statement because Italy is a historic ally and is also a founding member of the European Union,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio. Paris was left incensed on Tuesday when Italian Deputy-Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio held a surprise meeting with the leaders of “yellow vest” protesters in France who have called for President Emmanuel Macron to resign. Mr. Griveaux also dismissed suggestions that Paris was partly to blame for the current crisis in relations because of Mr. Macron’s past criticisms of Mr. Di Maio and far-right leader Matteo Salvini. “If they (Italy’s leaders) felt targeted, that’s their problem. Snide remarks from Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini haven’t stopped Italy falling into recession… we don’t make snide remarks,” Mr. Griveaux said. He also renewed a controversial comparison made by Mr. Macron last June between nationalism and leprosy, which angered Mr. Salvini at the time. “What is of interest to me is that people in Europe do better and if we can beat back the nationalist leprosy, populism, mistrust of Europe,” the government spokesman added.

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