Franco-Italian spat over migrants worsens as meetings cancelled

A dispute between France and Italy worsened Wednesday as high-level meetings between government officials on both sides were cancelled.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the week sharply criticised Italy for refusing to take in a humanitarian vessel carrying over 600 African migrants and Italy summoned the French ambassador on Tuesday to protest Macron’s strong comments.

Then Italy has cancelled a summit meeting with Macron, due this Friday, as a further protest, and Rome is insisting the French leader apologise to Italy, a move that is unlikely at this juncture.

Italy, last week, refused to allow “The Aquarius” rescue ship to dock in southern Italy and told the boat to go to Malta where it was also refused docking rights.

Italy was ferociously criticised for lacking humanitarian values, but Rome protested that it has hundreds of thousands of migrants transiting to camps in Lampedusa and elsewhere, while other EU nations don’t bear the same burden.

The Italian government also noted that France did not offer to take in “The Aquarius” and its human cargo. Spain later agreed to take in the vessel in eastern port of Valencia.

The spat between Paris and Rome was envenomed on Wednesday by the announcement that Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria had cancelled a meeting with French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, talks that were to prepare for the EU Summit meeting at the end of this month.

The meeting “was cancelled at the Italian’s request and we regret it,” the French Economy Minister said on local media, noting there were “many important subjects” that need to be discussed between the two countries before the EU Summit.

Since the Italian far-right has entered into a government with a reformist partner, Rome has vowed to take a tougher stance on immigration, among other issues.

Source: Kuwait News Agency