02:33 GMT23 February 2020
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    France has recalled its envoy to Italy amid an unprecedented diplomatic spat between the nations. The standoff between Rome and Paris started after Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Five Star Movement Luigi Di Maio met with Christophe Chalençon, one of the yellow vests leaders; Paris has condemned the meeting calling it a provocation.

    Sputnik discussed the diplomatic row between France and Italy with Gilles Bertrand, professor of modern history at the University of Grenoble Alpes and co-author of a history of Franco-Italian relations since 1660.

    Sputnik: How grave is the ongoing spat between these two nations now? And what implications can this have for Franco-Italian relations as such?

    Gilles Bertrand: I think this is a verbal exchange which has nothing to do with the reality of economical and cultural exchange, it's a form of media excitement that is created with the aim of European elections.

    But we know that verbal exchange can be very dangerous. We remember, for example, in the 19th century the Dispatch of Ems before the (Franco-Prussian) war between Germany and France.

    We have to [pay] attention to that sort of excitement, and I'm sure that we have to be very, very careful when we consider the effect that is always possible in very close relations that can be not-so-close if it continues that way.

    Sputnik: Absolutely. We've had this recent event where Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini actually had a meeting with the leaders of the yellow vests know that's very provocative in terms of the current situation that's happening within France at the moment. How far-reaching could the consequences of this diplomatic spat between the two nations go then, in light of incidents like I've just mentioned?

    Gilles Bertrand: It can continue, because in this moment,that is, a moment for preparation for the European elections, there is an idea to provoke a convergence between the yellow vests movement in France and the Five Star Movement and the League movement in Italy, with the aim to channel the protest dynamics against the effect of capitalism and productivism, this is a reality that has to be considered.

    I mean, it's not the case if the present Italian government is moving a lot of old parts of French and Italian history, it is a sort of reservoir that is used to give food to the organisation of future European elections.

    In this context, I think, for Italy, France can be used, as Europe is often used, as a scapegoat to disrupt the attention in Italy from the difficulties that the government faces on two points actually, the economic crisis and the political tension between the two parts of the actual Italian government: the Five Star Movement and the League. So the use of an old reservoir, an old tank of misunderstandings between Italy and France can be certainly useful to divert attention from internal problems.

    READ MORE: 'A New Europe is Being Born': Senior Italian Officials Hail Yellow Vests

    Sputnik: Media outlets have dubbed the spat between the nations as historic, is that really the case? Could it severely damage the diplomatic ties now do you think?

    Gilles Bertrand: I have a prudent consideration about the length of the relationship, I'm sure that the relationship is very straight and close and so, in this context, I'm not sure that it can be a lengthy dispute between the two countries.

    I think the links are so deep it's not possible to have the continuity between what politicians are saying and what companies intellectual are doing in everyday life. I'm sure the contact between Italy and France will continue, certainly continue, and what I hope is that everybody could be conscious of this long and always problematic but also friendly history.

    READ MORE: Macron Covertly Prepares Referendum to End Yellow Vests Protests — Reports

    You know, in the past, I mean at the end of the 19th century, Italy and France were called the Latin sisters and at the same time in which the economical world and the cultural world were working together very deeply, the politicians in Italy and France were anathema to each other, it was the politics of the Triple Alliance (Triple Entente).

    I mean, Italy was with Germany and Austria, whereas France was with England (Britain), so there was a political discourse and there was reality, which was very different from what politicians were saying.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik


    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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