Italy-France Diplomatic Row Escalates

France withdrew its ambassador to Itay. This hasn’t occurred since 1940

Emmanuel Macron, the Republic President of France, and his staff have decided to recall their ambassador based in Rome. This riff in diplomatic affairs between France and Italy could have been caused by a series of repeated gibes and attacks received by the Italian government, considered ‘absolutely unjustified and unacceptable’.

What is behind this action?

It’s no secret that there was no harmony between Paris and Rome from the ‘green-yellow’ government’s assignment. But what pushed the French government to take similar action?

In reality, there have been several reasons that have followed one another, and the last straw was the meeting between the Italian Minister of Labour Luigi Di Maio and the main representatives of one of the most radical wings of French ‘Yellow Vests’ movement.

The key approach in light of the European election

Since the anti-establishment Five-Star movement will lose the help of Nigel Farage, a main member of UKIP (the UK Independence Party), who will leave the European parliamentary group, Luigi Di Maio is actually searching for new supporters across the borders. And the ‘Yellow Vests’ embody the most rooted beliefs of the movement, namely a strong rejection of the democratic values at the basis of this social system.

Moreover, since Di Maio and the League’s chief Matteo Salvini understood that they could gain more consensus at home if they steadily attack domestic issues of neighbouring countries, they simply began doing it. Our politicians actually blame France as the basis of the migration crisis that we are experiencing. Why? It’s probably because of historical justifications tied to the ‘Colonialism Era’ in Africa, where France played a crucial role. And on top of that, Salvini and Di Maio maintain that French politicians continue to feed into this problem.

However, it is no accident that such a debate is arising right now at the advent of the political campaign for the European elections. Italian populists strongly hope to come out of the election much stronger.

But how? Fundamentally, the two Italian Vice-Prime Ministers are following diverse strategic approaches in preparing for the EU vote: the Five-Stars have detected a new stand in the ‘Yellow Vests,’ as mentioned above, while Salvini wants to establish a massive populist block of countries across the EU, counting on the support of Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orban.

Why pull the diplomat from Rome?

For sure, the French choice of withdrawing the ambassador based in Rome is a precise political decision aimed at putting our government under stronger pressure than what it currently has. Fortunately, Macron’s spokesperson stated that this action must not be taken as a definitive break in the political relationship with Italy, but rather as only a temporary circumstance due to the current impossibility of keeping diplomatic channels open.

Major implications

In the meantime, this diplomatic crisis is widening its effects (probably unconsciously) even on the strategic alliance in the aircraft sector between Air France and Alitalia. In fact, there is currently a rumor saying that the Board of Management of the French giant is essentially evaluating the possibility of leaving the alliance, stating ‘political and institutional reasons.’ And seeing that the French State is the major shareholder of Air France, it sounds like a possible further threat to Italian government.

Instead, what does seem sure is the chaos that the Italian government is used to generating in foreign policy issues. However, as far as Matteo Salvini is concerned, the League party’s leader seems to be fairly thorough in dealing with foreign affairs. Regarding the Five-Star movement, instead, the perception is that they are still paying for their unpreparedness and inexperience, thus not yet able to establish efficiency in dealing with foreign affairs.