Macron dismisses Salvini and Di Maio taunts
French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed as insignificant the “anti-colonial” remarks by Italy’s two populist deputy prime ministers, saying his Italian counterpart was Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Lega and Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five-Star movement accused Macron of hypocrisy on immigration.
“I won’t answer, that’s what they’re waiting for. So good luck to them, enjoy the agitation, enjoy the ride, as far as I’m concerned, I speak to President [sic] Conte,” Macron said during a trip to Egypt.
Conte tried to ease the disputes by saying relations between Italy and France remained strong.
Di Maio accused French neo-colonial policies of creating poverty and chaos in Africa while Salvini claimed Macron was doing nothing to bring peace to Libya.
Macron said: “All of this has frankly no importance.”
“Italy is a great people, the Italian people are our friend and deserves leaders worthy of its history,” Macron said.
Salvini wants to force centrists like Macron to take him more seriously by changing the balance of power at May’s European parliamentary elections.
The deputy prime minister was pushing ahead with his campaign to change the European Union consensus, said his strategist Guglielmo Picchi, a former Barclays investment banker who now works at the Italian foreign ministry.
Salvini purportedly says that if his Lega secures 30-per-cent support in Italy, he would have the influence to force the establishment to change, Picchi told Bloomberg. That would require him to almost double the share of the Lega vote from Italy’s general election in March 2018.
“Then, just as [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel was Europe’s guide for many years, now it will be Salvini,” Picchi said. “Everyone will have to talk to Salvini. His leadership will no longer be just Italian, but European too.”
New populist MEPs will be able to make changes to the European Commission, the EU’s executive, and begin to influence policy.
Polling suggests support for Lega has risen to more than 32 per cent, compared to the 17.4 per cent of votes it secured in last year’s election.
Electoral estimates across Europe suggested populist parties would probably win less than a third of parliamentary seats, JPMorgan’s David Mackie said. European populists are also divided in their demands from Brussels and are unlikely to unite behind Salvini.
France rejected the migrant rescue ship Aquarius’ attempts to dock at Marseille last year. Picture credit: Wikimedia