French President Emmanuel Macron “fears” the success of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, an MEP has claimed. Seeing Ms Meloni, the head of a far-right-wing party, becoming a respected leader on the European stage could be seen as a threat by the French leader for his own party ahead of the European elections in 2024, it has been argued.
The normalisation of far-right leaders outside of the Italian borders could rub off on Mr Macron’s long-time political enemy, Marine Le Pen, and possibly inspire those on the right of the French political system, Nicola Procaccini, an MEP member of Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party claimed.
Speaking to Politico, he claimed Mr Macron “fears that the success of Giorgia Meloni could be contagious and further weaken the French government”.
The Elysee, he added, “is terrified by the idea that the centre-right in France could unite and realise in France what happened in Italy”.
An alliance between the European People’s Party (EPP) and Ms Meloni’s party, which is currently part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR), could also make the right in Europe even more influential in Brussels, to the detriment of the centrist group of which Mr Macron’s party is part.
As the campaigning for the upcoming European elections is about to be launched, Mr Macron’s ministers have criticised Ms Meloni’s government. Mr Macron himself hasn’t spoken out against Ms Meloni or her government.
While the relationship between Mr Macron and his Italian counterpart started on the right foot when she was appointed in October, the honeymoon period lasted only for a few weeks before they started clashing over migrant policies.
In November 2022, Ms Meloni accused France of betrayal after Paris froze plans to take in 3,500 migrants who had arrived on the Italian coasts and urged other countries to do the same, despite the existing European redistribution deal.
This move was in response to Rome’s refusal to allow the NGO vessel Ocean Viking carrying more than 200 migrants to land, choosing instead to direct the ship to the French coasts.
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The public spats between France and Italy continued in the months that followed.
In February, as EU leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels, Ms Meloni accused Mr Macron of not bringing her into a meeting held the previous day in Paris with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The issue of migrants returned to the fore again in early May, when at the last minute Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Tajani cancelled an official visit to Paris after France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Rome was “incapable of resolving migration problems”.
Mr Tajani slammed the remarks by the French minister as “unacceptable” in a tweet at the time.
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Prior to this tweet, France’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had seemingly tried to patch up the damage done by Mr Darmanin, as it said in a statement the Elysee wished to work with Italy “in a spirit of solidarity” on the key issue of migrants.
The relationship between Italy and France is not yet a breaking point, though.
Ms Meloni, who held a meeting with Mr Macron in May during the G7 in Japan, confirmed she will visit France in the summer.
And Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who is not new to easing tensions between France and Italy, is heading to Paris on Wednesday – officially to mark the launch of an Italian exhibition at the Louvre.
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