French ambassador Christian Masset has served in Italy since 2017Image: picture-alliance/EPA/E. Laurent
French ambassador to return to Rome after spat
February 15, 2019
Following a brief but harsh row between France and Italy, Christian Masset had been recalled. But despite the ambassador's impending return, relations between the two country are likely to remain tense.
The spat erupted when Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio traveled to France to meet the representatives of the "yellow vest" protesters. Di Maio has repeatedly praised the protest movement and criticized the French government's response. Following the meeting with French activists last week, he tweeted that "the wind of change has crossed the Alps."
Di Maio's said he was in France as a leader of his party and working on creating a common front ahead of the EU Parliament election in May. But the move prompted outrage in Paris, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian telling Italian Corriere della Sera daily that a "line was crossed."
Di Maio, who also serves as Italy's minister of economic development, "met someone who has called for armed insurrection and for the intervention of the army," Le Drian said.
Le Drian's ministry called Di Maio's meeting an "unacceptable provocation" adding on "repeated accusations, baseless attacks and extreme declarations" from Rome.
Tensions between Paris and Rome have been growing for months, with officials from the two populist parties making up the Italian ruling coalition harshly criticizing the administration led by French President Emmanuel Macron. The leader of Italy's right-wing Lega party, Matteo Salvini, has described Macron as a "terrible president," repeatedly slammed him over migration, and recently criticized France for "stealing" Africa's wealth. Salvini also serves as the country's interior minister and also a deputy prime minister.
Di Maio, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, Luigi , also provoked Paris by saying that "France has never stopped colonizing tens of African states." France responded to his comments by summoning the Italian ambassador.