France's Macron speaks with Italy's Mattarella to defuse dispute

The incident followed months of spats between French President Emmanuel Macron and members of Italy's populist government, in which Macron called the parties in Italy's government "lepers".
The incident followed months of spats between French President Emmanuel Macron and members of Italy's populist government, in which Macron called the parties in Italy's government "lepers".PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian President Sergio Mattarella spoke by phone on Tuesday (Feb 12) evening after France last week withdrew its ambassador from Rome following what it saw as meddling in internal affairs by an Italian minister.

Macron and Mattarella "reaffirmed the importance of French-Italian relations for each country" and "recalled that France and Italy, who together built Europe, have a particular responsibility to work together to defend and relaunch the European Union," the French presidency said in a statement.

France called its ambassador back to Paris for consultations last week after Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, without properly informing either his own or the French government, visited members of the Yellow Vests protest movement in France and offered his support.

The incident followed months of spats between Macron and members of Italy's populist government, in which Macron called the parties in Italy's government "lepers" and Italy's other Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said Macron was a "bad president" who ought to resign.

Unlike France's executive presidency, Italy's president is largely a figurehead though that hasn't stopped Mattarella clashing with Di Maio and Salvini over European and economic policy.