The Yellow Vests received some strong international support from President Macron's Italian rival Matteo Salvini who accused the French leader of being "against his people". His coalition partner Luigi Di Maio also called on the protesters "not to weaken", in what represented an unexpected political intervention by Italy into France's affairs. To be fair, France had interfered in Italy's first by reportedly dumping illegal migrants onto its territory last year, which infuriated Salvini and is one of the reasons behind his rivalry with Macron. The other is that both countries are now ruled by ideologically contradictory forces, with France being governed by the EU's ruling EuroLiberal faction while Italy represents the up-and-coming populist wave of EuroRealism.
Macron, who despite his comparatively young age is a representative of the so-called "old guard" of contemporary European politics, has vowed to forcefully crush the protests and is poised to impose a stricter security regime against them that will also include banning balaclavas. Salvini, on the other hand, seems infected with the revolutionary spirit, not just because of what he and his coalition partner said about the Yellow Vests but most tangibly due to his recent visit to Poland to meet with its ruling EuroRealist "grey cardinal" Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The two discussed forming an alliance in the upcoming European Parliament elections later this May, which could lead to profound political change across the continent if their reformist bloc is successful.
The contrast between the French and Italian leaders therefore couldn't be more pronounced, with each of them embodying a drastically different future for Europe. Macron's vision is one of heightened taxation, open borders, and what increasingly seems poised to become a police state, while Salvini's is all about reducing taxes, controlling illegal immigration, and transforming the country into a people's state. Furthermore, Macron stands for a centralized Europe that might one day unite into a federation which curtails national sovereignty and surrenders decision making to transnational bodies, while Salvini is in favor of a decentralized model that respects the rights of nation-states and the democratic will of their people.
The ideological tension between the two leaders just escalated after Salvini trolled Macron about the Yellow Vests, but his populist remarks might risk delegitimizing the movement.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Roberto Vivaldelli, Italian political observer and Lawrence Desforges, French independent journalist who runs his own website, globalepresse.net.
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