Immigration, Yellow Vests, or Africa: Italy and France have intensified their war of words. The Italian Interior Minister accused French President Emmanuel Macron of preventing the French people from "taking control of their future and destiny".
Diplomatic appeasement between Paris and Rome is apparently not yet an urgent matter. “I hope that the French will be able to free themselves from a very bad president, and the opportunity is that of May 26 [the European elections] when finally the French people will be able to take back their future and their destiny, their pride, from evil represented by a character like [Emmanuel] Macron,” Matteo Salvini said on January 22 in a Facebook video shot in front of a former penicillin factory in Rome.
The factory was formerly occupied by more than 600 migrants and the Italian Interior Minister went to the address to denounce the remarks made by the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, who had demanded the reoccupation of the premises.
In his indictment, Salvini, a native of Milan, expressed the hope that Marine Le Pen would win in the next European elections. “It is not Matteo Salvini who will interfere in the French democracy, it will be the French. I hope they will choose someone more representative, serious, concrete, I think of Marine Le Pen,” he said as he criticised the migration policy of Emmanuel Macron.
In addition to the many verbal skirmishes between the two men on the care and reception of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the federal secretary of the League has also responded to French gendarmes returning migrants to Italy. He had previously demanded from Paris some “clear, rapid and unequivocal answers” on the border issue.
But the prefecture of the Hautes-Alpes had argued in a statement that it was “a procedure of non-admission to the border in all respects in accordance with the practice agreed between the French police and the Italian police as well as European law”. In response, Matteo Salvini had decided to send Italian police to the Franco-Italian border.
This toughening of migration policy advocated by Rome has been praised by Marine Le Pen. “We share the same idea of Europe, agriculture, work, the fight against immigration, and we are against the enemies of Europe that are [Jean-Claude] Juncker and [Pierre] Moscovici, isolated in the bunker of Brussels,” she said on October 8 last year alongside her Italian ally.
Salivini has not hidden his satisfaction to see “non-violent” demonstrations in Paris and accross France. “I support honest citizens who protest against a president governing against his own people,” he said on 7 January.
The Minister of Economic Development, Labor and Social Policy, and head of the 5-star Movement (M5S) Luigi Di Maio, was even more direct: “Yellow Vests, do not falter!”
“[Emmanuel] Macron’s government is not up to expectations and some policies implemented are actually dangerous, not only for the French, but also for Europe,” he added, saying: “A new Europe is being born. That of Yellow Vests, that of movements, that of direct democracy. It’s a tough battle we can fight together.”
On January 22, on the TV show Mattino 5, Salvini accused France of plundering the wealth of the African continent: “The problem of migrants has many causes: for example, those who do not go to Africa to create development, but rather to take wealth from the African people. France is among them. Italy not.”
On January 20, Di Maio also accused Paris of impoverishing Africa, notably via the CFA Franc, and of being at the origin of the death of migrants in the Mediterranean. His statement provoked the ire of the Quai d’Orsay who had decided the next day to summon the Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo.
“In Libya, France has no interest in stabilizing the situation, probably because it has oil interests opposed to those of Italy,” Salvini said.
Di Maio wants the European Union to sanction countries that “impoverish Africa” and are, according to him, responsible for the tragedy of migrants in the Mediterranean. “The EU should punish France and all countries that, like France, impoverish Africa and send [migrants], because the place of Africans is in Africa not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.
“If today there are people who leave, it is because some European countries, France in the lead, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries,” insisted Di Maio.
According to him, “there are dozens of African countries where France prints a currency, the franc of the colonies and with this currency it finances the French public debt”.
“If France did not have their African colonies – because that’s the right way to call them – it would be the 15th largest economy in the world, when it is among the first thanks to what it is doing,” he continued.
Migrant youths currently make up almost half of the unemployed youth in France, according to figures by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
At a workshop organised by the OECD and the Association of Economic and Financial Journalists (AJEF) the data revealed that 2,85 million individuals aged 15-34 are not employed, and that 40 percent of them were either born abroad or were born in France to at least one immigrant parent, Le Figaro reported.
The European Union (EU) has called on France speed up integration into the labour market to turn around their poor rate of labour inactivity at around 18,1 percent.
The OECD also released similar figures for other countries including Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden with high averages for those with a migration background.