00:43 GMT +318 February 2019
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    France ‘Yellow Vests’ protests

    French Minister Says ‘Playtime is Over’ Amid Yellow Vests' Row With Italy

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    Tensions between France and Italy escalated after Paris recalled its ambassador to Rome on 7 February over what it described as “repeated, baseless” attacks by the Italian leadership against the Fifth Republic.

    Commenting on the recall of the French Ambassador from Italy, French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau told Radio Classique that it was not about making the situation even more dramatic:

    “It’s not about being dramatic, it’s about saying playtime is over. A member of a foreign government who comes to France to support not even a political leader but someone who called for a civil war, who called for the overthrow of the president and a military government, this never happened before”,

    On 5 February, Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with the yellow vests leaders who are seeking to run in May’s European parliament elections. Di Maio said that “the wind of change has crossed the Alps”, and a “new Europe is being born of the yellow vests”.

    READ MORE: France Recalls Envoy From Rome After Italian Deputy PM Meets 'Yellow Vests'

    The following day the French government blasted his comments as an inadmissible “provocation” and on 7 February announced it had recalled the ambassador to Rome.

    “For several months, France has been the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements. Having disagreements is one thing but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another. All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government’s intentions towards France”, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that such criticism was “unprecedented” since the end of World War II.

    Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in turn, responded by saying that his government did not want relations with France to deteriorate and suggested a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to improve ties.

    “I don’t want to row with anyone, I’m prepared to go to Paris, even by foot, to discuss the many issues we have”, he said.

    At the same time, he stressed that Paris, for its part, must first tackle three pressing issues, such as halt pushing migrants from France back to Italy, put an end to lengthy border checks blocking traffic, and hand over some 15 Italian fugitive militants who are believed to have been hiding in France for decades.

    Last month, Italy’s Ambassador to France Teresa Castaldo was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry after Di Maio accused Paris of being responsible for the migrant crisis in Europe.

    Di Maio suggested that France was exploiting Africa and had never stopped colonising it, which has propelled the refugee crisis:

    “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.

    Salvini, on the other hand, publicly called out Macron, describing the French president as a “problem for French people”, while referring to the ongoing yellow vests protests, which started as demonstrations against hikes in diesel prices in mid-November but have since evolved in protests against government policies.

    READ MORE: France Summons Italian Envoy Over Deputy PM's 'Africa Colonisation' Remarks

    Relations between the two European Union member states have hit their lowest point since the migrant row last June when Paris chastised Rome for refusing to accept the Aquarius rescue vessel with over 600 migrants on board.

    Tags:
    envoy, ambassador, provocation, yellow vests, row, diplomatic crisis, Nathalie Loiseau, Luigi Di Maio, Matteo Salvini, France, Italy