France tells Italy 'Basta! - withdraws envoy after war of words

Erika Holt
February 8, 2019

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement Thursday that the ambassador is being brought back for "consultations", and urged Italy to return to friendly relations worthy of "our common destiny".

President Macron ordered the recall, a rare act between close allies, in response to increasingly brazen backing for the yellow vests from Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, the leaders of Italy's governing coalition.

Ansa is quoting a French Foreign Ministry press releases that said there had been "outrageous statements" by the Italian government.

Last month, Paris summoned Italy's ambassador to protest Di Maio's accusation that France was encouraging immigration to Europe "because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries".

With the announcement of a third "yellow vest" list for the European elections, the movement seems to be divided. "To disagree is one thing, to exploit a relationship for electoral aims is another".

Di Maio and Salvini, who formed a populist coalition government together a year ago, have repeatedly criticised French President Emmanuel Macron, who has, in turn, targeted their "eurosceptic actions" before high-stakes European Parliament elections in May.

The at time violent "yellow vests" protests have been a political thorn in President Emmanuel Macron's side since November as support among the French electorate for his reform agenda has ebbed.

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January 2019: Di Maio accuses France of "colonial" policies in Africa, fuelling the migrant crisis.

Di Maio after talks said that "winds of change" had appeared from across the Alps and that a new meeting would take place in Rome.

"This new provocation is not acceptable between neighboring countries and partners in the European Union", a foreign ministry spokesman said in a daily online briefing.

"I hope the French will be able to free themselves of a awful president", Salvini said in a Facebook video last month. France warned him not to interfere in the country's politics.

In an interview Wednesday, Le Pen said Macron's attempts at national reconciliation will fail if the president fails to address the demands of yellow vests. "In the political campaign our friend is Germany and so we had to do the campaign against France", he said, prompting laughter from Merkel.

"We are ready and willing, with a constructive spirit, to turn the page for the good of our people", Salvini said.

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