Italy threatens to cancel Conte-macron meet unless France apologizes
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday that without an “official apology” from France, a planned meeting between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday should be canceled.
“If an official apology doesn’t arrive, Prime Minister Conte would be right not to go to France,” Salvini told reporters after demanding that France take in more migrants, AFP reported.
Macron had blasted Italy for its “cynicism and irresponsibility” in refusing to welcome 629 migrants left stranded on a French charity’s rescue ship in the Mediterranean before Spain agreed to take them in.
Gabriel Attal, the spokesman for Macron’s party, called Italy’s actions “nauseating”.
Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned the French ambassador to Rome over the comments on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “the Italian government considers unacceptable the words publicly pronounced yesterday in Paris”.
Milanesi added that the comments made by France were “compromising relations between Italy and France”.
France’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying that it is “perfectly aware” of the pressure on Italy as it copes with an influx of migrants from Africa, adding it is “committed to cooperation and dialogue” with Rome.
Salvini’s far-right League party campaigned on taking a hard line on migrants ahead of March’s election and rose to power as part Italy’s eurosceptic, populist government that took office this month.
Also on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that the hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy have formed an “axis of the willing” to combat illegal immigration into the EU.
Meanwhile, an Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily Wednesday.
The Diciotti ship arrived at the port of Catania and the migrants began to disembark, an AFP photographer saw.
They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya. An official in the Catania coastguard said there were more than 900 migrants.
Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive.
That has put pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.
GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP Red Cross workers examined the rescued migrants who disembarked in Sicily from the Italian Coastguard vessel Diciotti.