“This new provocation is unacceptable between neighboring countries and partners in the European Union,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, according to German news agency dpa. In protest, Paris ordered its ambassador in Rome, Christian Masset, for consultations back to France on Thursday.
Di Maio could undermine the bilateral relations between the two countries with such meetings, critics say. The politician of the Five-Star Movement described the meeting on Tuesday in the small town of Montargis south of Paris as “a first of many” meetings.
According to the Yellow-Vest spokesman Christophe Chalencon, there was talk of a possible cooperation leading up to the European elections in May. “That gives our actions international value,” said Chalencon. Di Maio posted a photo after the meeting on Twitter with the words: “The wind of change has crossed the Alps.”
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had previously backed the movement, which had arisen in protest against higher taxes on fuel. The Lega leader called members of the movement “Honorable Citizens” and accused President Emmanuel Macron of ruling against the interests of his own people.
He said of the French head of state that Macron was “not the leader of a new Europe, but a product of an experimental lab designed to block EU reform”.
In January, Paris had already summoned the Italian ambassador because of Maio’s statements. He had accused France of still colonizing African countries and contributing to the mass exodus from the black continent.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement: “The latest interference is an additional provocation and unacceptable, ” adding: “France has, for several months, been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks, outrageous statements that everyone knows and may have in mind.”
“This is unprecedented […] The latest interference is an additional provocation and unacceptable,” said Agnès von der Mühll, the spokesperson of the Quai d’Orsay.
Matteo Salvini has meanwhile tried to calm tensions. The Italian Interior Minister told Franceinfo: “I am ready to turn the page in relations with France for the good of our people and I would be happy to meet Macron.”
But right after his statement, Salvini also issued another threat: “But France must stop pushing migrants back to the border and give asylum to Italian criminals “.
The MS5 party was more firm: “They [France] were used to having vassals in Italy, it is certain that they are now seeing the difference. We, we have the full right to have political meetings for possible operations in the European Parliament and we therefore believe that through this meeting [with Yellow Vests], there is no attack against the French ” said the Italian Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, judging that the recall of the french Ambassador had been a “provocation” .
Anti-immigration politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, president of Debout la France! denounced the “surrealist scene” and accused Emmanuel Macron of “dividing Europe” and “creating unprecedented chaos” by “scorning and insulting European leaders” .
On January 22, Salvini expressed hope that “the French will be able to free themselves of a very bad president”. He called on the “French people” to “take back in hand their future and destiny, their pride poorly represented by a character like Macron”.