French newspaper Le Figaro wrote that the latest row between France and Italy is evolving into a diplomatic crisis, while Italian media outlet La Repubblica suggested that Rome had targeted France and French people, rather than President Emmanuel Macron and his party.
“Provocation, counter attack, another provocation… Such a chain of events makes Rome speak of a diplomatic crisis in relations, rather than political disagreements”, Le Figaro wrote.
The French paper cited Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who voiced hope that the French people would not choose Macron’s party in the elections.
"We are Europeans, and we will remain Europeans, but we are not morons. We don't drop anyone since France and Germany will remain our historic partners, but perhaps this is not Macron who will be our interlocutor as his approval rating is less than 20 percent. I hope that the French people will make another choice in the near future and thus change the balance in Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Commission", Salvini told the Rai Radio 1 station
Prior to that Salvini explained that his issue was not with the French people but "with Macron, who talks a lot and achieves little, who give lessons of generosity and then rejects thousands of migrants at the Italian border".
In the meantime, La Repubblica suggested that members of the Five Star Movement had used similar statements on the eve of elections to the European Parliament.
“When the leaders of the Five Stars were looking for a way to assert themselves in the election race, more than in ideas and promises, they needed a scapegoat. For the Five Stars, Macron personifies the image of an ideal enemy that needs to be overcome…”, Annalisa Cuzzocrea wrote.
The French Foreign Ministry summoned Italy’s envoy on Monday after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused Paris of “impoverishing Africa” and fuelling migration:
“I’ve stopped being a hypocrite talking only about the effects of immigration and it’s time to talk about the causes. The EU should sanction all those countries like France that are impoverishing African countries and are causing those people to leave. If we have people who are leaving Africa now it’s because some European countries, and France in particular, have never stopped colonising Africa”, he said over the weekend.
Italy, for its part, summoned the French ambassador, and blamed the country’s authorities for forcing migrants who had entered France to return to Italy, which has become the first landing point for many refugees arriving by sea.
Italy’s right-wing government has been consistent with its anti-migration stance, insisting on the need to revise the so-called Dublin rule, which stipulates that refugees file for asylum in the first EU member-state they arrive in.