Paris recalls ambassador to Rome

France has recalled its ambassador to Rome after a meeting took place between Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and representatives of the yellow vest movement. The move marks an escalation in the bilateral conflict. The press discusses why this dispute has repercussions that extend far beyond the borders of the two countries.

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The Independent (GB) /

It's all about the European economy

Europe's growing social inequality is the real reason for the conflict, The Independent warns:

“This is not really just about Italy and France. It is about the failure, real or perceived, of the European economy to deliver higher living standards for many of its people. Italy has been particularly hard hit, with 20 years of barely any increase in living standards, but many people in France, witness the appeal of the gilets jaunes, feel similarly disadvantaged. ... Unless Europe can demonstrate greater economic vibrancy, the protests will escalate. And this is why the new evidence of stagnation is so alarming to the European high command.”

Ouest-France (FR) /

Diplomatic crises show things as they are

Italy's relations with France show that its governing parties are out to sabotage the European project, Ouest France comments:

“A real sovereigntist who invokes the people every third sentence doesn't look for support in Moscow as Lega and M5S (and others) have done. And he doesn't campaign in a neighbouring country - in this case France. The true face behind Italy's marriage of convenience reveals a project that is not European but pan-European, bent on destabilising the current framework by permanently stoking tensions. ... At least Paris's official confirmation of this diplomatic clash has the merit of making it clear to Rome that no one is fooled.”

Politico (BE) /

Europe the winner in row between Rome and Paris

Europe will be the real winner in the diplomatic showdown between Paris and Rome, writes EU law professor Alberto Alemanno in Politico's European edition:

“The showdown, then, shouldn't only be seen as an explosive one-off, but rather as evidence of the Europeanization of the bloc's political space. At its core, this is a positive development for the bloc: Domestic parties are reaching out to allies, both old and new, across the Continent to make their European projects a reality. As political campaigns ahead of the European election kick into gear, this trend will only accelerate and intensify in the months ahead. Europe shouldn't shy away from the disruption. This transformation of the political conversation could free the EU from shackles that have trapped its progress for too long.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Europe's public discourse more brutal by the day

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is appalled:

“It is scary to see how quickly the limits of democratic culture on which Europe's peace and prosperity have rested up to now are being tested in the EU. Within just a few years the troublemakers from left and right have managed to render public discourse in and between their countries more brutal. ... The EU will have to live with such conflicts for the foreseeable future, and it won't be easy. ... The Europe of Di Maio and Salvini is a continent whose peoples berate and attack each other instead of working together. This has never gone well in the past.”

La Croix (FR) /

Rome breaks with diplomatic rules

Both Salvini and Italian deputy PM Di Maio have gone too far, La Croix believes:

“The verbal attacks are a complete break with diplomatic practice. They show clearly how Italy's current leaders, incapable of agreeing on their respective - and contradictory - projects, are now seeking a way out of their discord. ... Certainly, Emmanuel Macron has never been sparing with his criticism of Italy's [current coalition] experiment. But he never called into question the Italians' democratic decision. ... France was right to recall its ambassador. The task of diplomacy is first and foremost to defuse tensions. It can only function by relying on an ethic of dialogue. By preferring insults and excesses, the Italian government is breaking new ground.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Macron the drama queen

Macron is being unnecessarily melodramatic, writes Lucia Annunziata, editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Italia:

“If you look beyond the harsh tone used by our leaders when talking about the French president, and the unusual decision of Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio to meet with the yellow vests in Paris, what seems really surprising is the fact that Macron has completely lost his orientation. His dramatisation of the conflict with Italy is further proof of the weakness of a leader who, in view of the changes in the European (and French) political landscape, seems in recent months to have distanced himself from from his plan to become an enlightened leader for the Union.”

De Standaard (BE) /

President already in election campaign mode

Macron is not entirely blameless for the escalation, observes De Standaard:

“Paris wants to make it clear to Rome that Di Maio has gone too far and must stop. The yellow vests are now Macron's Achilles' heel. ... Just as Macron has become the preferred target for the Italians, the Italians are his preferred target now. He has added fuel to the fire. Macron wants to frame the European elections as the ultimate fight between pro-European reformers like himself and backwards nationalists and populists.”