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Upcoming Elections Inciting Cold War Between Italy and France

Last updated on February 5th, 2019

The verbal attack on the French President, Emmanuel Macron, by Italy’s two deputy Prime Ministers, Luigi Di Maio, and Matteo Salvini, may have been ignored by the President, but the feud is still far from settling. The relationship between the two nations is worsening, and the verbal heat is expected to catch pace as European elections approach in May. Especially with the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pointing out Italy’s indulgence in verbal fights with rivals over focus on important matters.

Salvini, who heads the far-right league labeled Macron as a “terrible” French President and called on the French voters to stop supporting his En Marche party, for the upcoming European parliamentary ballot.

On the other hand, Di Maio, the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, last week accused France of the ruination of Africa and triggering on the migration crisis.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to Egypt on Sunday, Macron downplayed the impact of comments and insisted they were “of no importance.” He emphasized that his only counterpart was the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, and not his two full-throated deputies. Further censuring he stated that “Italy deserves leader’s worth of its history.”

The relation between the two neighbors has been stressful in the last 10 years, with France’s role in the 2011 military intervention in Libya, continuous problem with migrants at the shared border, and Italy’s habit of making the bait fall on France for one or the other reason.

The tensions multiplied especially after Italy’s populist government came to power last June. Immigration was the first major issue over which, the schism between the two nations saw the trading of insults. The French President blasted Italy for turning away a migrant rescue ship, to which Italy responded by accusing Macron of hypocrisy.

“There have always been problematic dossiers that tended to be managed diplomatically,” said Jean-Pierre Darnis, a scientific adviser at the Institute of International Affairs in Rome.” “But that changed in 2018, especially with the pressure of the League, which takes explicitly anti-French positions, and Salvini, who is trying to establish Macron as a political adversary,” he added.

Even recently, during the yellow-vest protests, Di Maio threw his support behind the anti-government protestors and asked them to “not give up.” His claim last week that France “hasn’t stopped colonizing African states”, also led to France’s foreign ministry summoning the Italian ambassador, Teresa Castaldo.

Adding fuel to the fire, is also the renewal of the pact between France and Germany, aimed at stopping the Eurosceptic nationalism from hollowing the values of democracy. Salvini though has called that he would break “Germany-France axis” in the EU ballot; as he forges his partnership with other European far-right groups.

The clash of words look far from settled at this time, and with Salvini’s outspoken attitude, the cold war might just go on forever.

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