‘Unacceptable Provocation’: Italian Populists Troll French Establishment by Meeting Yellow Vests

Italy's populist Five Star Movement (M5S) party leader Luigi Di Maio, addresses journalists a day after Italy's general elections, on March 5, 2018 in Rome. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right euro-sceptic League party were the big winners of the election, which laid bare widespread anger over immigration …
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty

France’s foreign ministry has reacted with anger after Italy’s populist deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio met with French Yellow Vests, calling the gathering an “unacceptable provocation.”

Di Maio, whose anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) party governs Italy in coalition with the right-populist League, met with Yellow Vest leader Christophe Chalençon as well as candidates for European Parliament from the anti-government movement on Tuesday.

The deputy prime minister shared a photograph on Instagram of the encounter, writing,

“Today with Alessandro Di Battista [fellow M5S politician], we made a trip to France and we met the leader of the Yellow Vests Cristophe Chalençon and the candidates in the European elections…

“This is the souvenir photo of this beautiful meeting, the first of many, in which we talked about our countries, social rights, environment, and direct democracy.

“The winds of change have crossed the Alps. I repeat. The winds of change have crossed the Alps.”

The meeting comes after Di Maio reached out to the Yellow Vests, writing on his blog in January,  “Yellow Vests, do not weaken!”

“In France, as in Italy, politics has become deaf to the needs of citizens who have been kept out of the most important decisions affecting the people. The cry that rises strongly from the French squares is ultimately: ‘let us participate!’” he wrote.

France’s foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday, “This new provocation is not acceptable between neighbouring countries and partners in the European Union.”

“Mr Di Maio, who holds government responsibilities, must take care not to undermine, through his repeated interferences, our bilateral relations, in the interest of both France and Italy,” he added.

France and Italy have been trading barbs in recent months over migration and budgets. While not directly mentioning Italy, France’s globalist French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech in June that populism and anti-mass migration sentiment was spreading across Europe “like leprosy.”

League party leader Matteo Salvini, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, responded by calling Macron a hypocrite for rejecting migrants in his own country, and saying, “We may be leper populists, but I will take lessons when he welcomes tens of thousands of migrants, then we can talk.”

“The insults of Macron do not affect me, they make me strong. While he speaks, I am working today to stop the trafficking of illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean and to restore the villas seized from the mafia to the Italian people,” he added.

“Some speak, some do. Big kisses!”

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