Date: Wednesday, 23 January 2019
The Italian foreign minister and Lega leader has been embroiled in a battle of words with French President Emmanuel Macron over rising numbers of illegal immigrants entering Europe. Italy has seen a rise of migrants attempting to cross into the country over the last 18 months, prompting Rome to shut its borders to migrant ships. Yesterday, deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement (MS5) - which forms part of Italy’s coalition government La Lega – blasted France over its colonial past.
MS5 linked France’s African colonisation with the influx of refugees heading into Europe, saying Paris was not “interested in stabilising” conflicts in once-French colonised areas.
And on Wednesday, Mr Salvini took aim at France, accusing the country of “stealing wealth” from African countries such as Libya.
During an Italian TV interview, Mr Salvini said: “In Africa, there are people who steal wealth from the population. France is obviously among them.
“In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation because it has oil interests opposite to that of Italy.
Mr Salvini backed up comments made by Mr Di Maio over France's policy in Africa
Mr Di Maio blasted France and accused it of having colonial influence in north Africa
“Let us not take lessons from France, which in recent years has rejected tens of thousands of migrants at the border between France and Italy, including women and children.”
The comments are the latest evidence of French-Italian relations deteriorating since Italy voted in a new coalition Government.
Mr Macron has compared the rise of populism in Europe to “leprosy”, while Mr Salvini criticised France for its “hypocritical” approach to the flow of migrants entering Europe from north Africa.
On Monday, Mr Di Maio accused Paris of continuing to colonise African countries.
France and Italy have long clashed over the EU migrant crisis
He said: “There are countries like France which continues to maintain colonies in Africa by issuing a currency, the franc, imposed onto its former colonies.
“This currency is used to finance France’s public debt and weakens the economies of those countries from which migrants depart.”
The Italian deputy leader earlier pledged his support to the Gillets Jaunes movement, claiming his party would provide the group with “assistance”.
But on Tuesday, EU chief Pierre Moscovici issued a stark warning to Italy’s leaders currently entwined in a row over Paris’ presence in the African continent, branding the remarks made by Mr Di Maio as “silly”, “inappropriate” and “absurd”.