Minister calls for "mutual respect" with Italy

Italy – “France is ready to work with Italy in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation” – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera

Paris, 14 February 2019

Franco-Italian relations

Q. – After Ambassador Masset was recalled to Paris, what’s the current state of Franco-Italian relations?

THE MINISTER – France and Italy have been neighbouring countries, friends and allies for a long time. We decided to recall our ambassador to Paris precisely because this historic relationship, to which we’re so committed, is being undermined.

For the past few months, France has been the target of repeated attacks and outrageous accusations. But we believe Franco-Italian friendship is a common good that it’s important we protect. Because the situation raised issues about the Italian government’s real intentions, we thought it necessary to recall our ambassador. The aim of this symbolic gesture is both to better understand the situation and to give him the most appropriate mandate. On Tuesday evening, President Mattarella and President Macron, who are the guardians of the relationship between our two countries, spoke to each other. They share the same vision of the relationship, which strengthens us mutually and places a strong obligation on us.

Q. – When will the French Ambassador return to Rome?

THE MINISTER – I can tell you today that our ambassador will return very soon.

Q. – How have the Quai d’Orsay and the Farnesina [Italian Foreign Ministry] worked together to defuse the crisis?

THE MINISTER – There was a succession of attacks against France, and I made it known to the Italian Ambassador in Paris that the positions repeatedly adopted by several leading members of the government on French domestic politics were beginning to pose us serious problems. The initiative by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Di Maio, was the last straw – firstly because that visit was paid outside any diplomatic framework, whereby a minister informs the authorities of the country he’s visiting, and secondly because he met someone who was calling for an insurrection and an intervention by the army. The limit was overstepped.

Q. – Di Maio has since explained that he was acting in the context of the political debate for the European elections.

THE MINISTER – Once again, it isn’t an ordinary political situation. We’re talking about a meeting between a person who calls for armed insurrection and a member of the Italian government, which doesn’t comply with the basic etiquette between European partners.

Q. – What demands is France making to ensure such crises don’t recur?

THE MINISTER – We have disagreements, but we believe we can still have fair cooperation, respecting each other. We’re allies, we’re two founding members of the European Union, we’re two countries with a long shared history. So it matters that we should be able to deal with our disagreements through dialogue and not confrontation, in a spirit of mutual respect. These are fundamental principles.


Q. – The points of disagreement emphasized by the Italian government include policy on migrants. Can France confirm that some of the migrants of the Sea-Watch are being taken in?

THE MINISTER – It’s another issue of primary concern to us: France is, after Germany, the second country in Europe in terms of the number of asylum applications received. We’re addressing the practical problems that are currently posed. I’m thinking in particular of the boat Sea-Watch. France made commitments and is sticking to them unambiguously, just as it’s stuck to the commitments it made about the Aquarius. A French team is in Sicily right now for that purpose. We’re also continuing to uphold a mutually-supportive European solution.

Franco-Italian border

Q. – There are also more local issues – for example the Alpine border between France and Italy. The Italian government has been talking lately about more stringent checks on the French side.

THE MINISTER – Many difficulties of a technical nature can arise in a relationship between two neighbouring countries. They must be looked at by means of frank, calm dialogue, where solutions are always found, maintaining contact at every level, including locally. And on the ground, the cooperation is very good.


Q. – What about the disagreements on the situation in Libya?

THE MINISTER – We’re both partners and complement each other. When President Conte organized a meeting in Palermo last November, I went. When there was a road map allowing elections to be held quickly and armed groups to withdraw, we agreed. There was no dispute then and there’s no need to make one of it.

Q. – It’s often pointed out in Italy that the French company Total and the Italian firm Eni are competitors in Italy, with consequences at political and diplomatic level.

THE MINISTER – To be quite honest, the only issue is security and the return of peace and a legitimate authority in Libya.

Italian ex-terrorists

Q. – Another issue that poses a problem is the 15 Italian former terrorists who have taken refuge in France. When can we expect a first extradition?

THE MINISTER – I’m aware of the great sensitivity of this issue in Italy. On the basis of requests issued by the Italian authorities, French and Italian judges in Paris have been engaged since yesterday in a case-by-case legal examination. You have to look at things in depth and not exploit these situations; there too, in practice, the cooperation is good.

Lyon-Turin railway

Q. – The Italian government is divided today on the Lyon-Turin project; is France still committed to it?

THE MINISTER – There was an intergovernmental agreement on this, as the President reiterated during the last Franco-Italian summit, in Lyon in September 2017 – I was there. I understand that the Italian government has asked for a cost-benefit analysis of the project. We’re keeping a very close eye on the timetable and the European funding deadlines. The Italian government now needs to come to a decision quickly.

Fincantieri-Chantiers de l’Atlantique agreement

Q. – France and Germany’s antitrust authorities have asked for the Commission’s opinion on the Fincantieri-Chantiers de l’Atlantique agreement. Does France no longer completely support the agreement?

THE MINISTER – It’s a good agreement. It was concluded at the Lyon summit in September 2017. I hope it becomes a reality. Moreover, Germany and France’s antitrust authorities are independent of the governments. As far as the French government is concerned, we’re in favour of the agreement.

Quirinal “Treaty

Q. – At European level, some people in Italy followed the signing of the Treaty of Aachen between France and Germany with concern. Is the Quirinal Treaty between France and Italy still on the agenda?

THE MINISTER – We still want France and Italy to sign a great friendship treaty together. The project was discussed several times with the previous government. Work was begun. The issue remains on the table and we’re still ready and willing.

Q. – President Emmanuel Macron is talking to President Sergio Mattarella, whose position as guardian of Italy’s European commitments is known. But then there’s the two governments’ day-to-day business, which appears more complicated. Are you confident that new cooperation is going to be fostered between France and Italy at ministerial level?

THE MINISTER – We’re committed to two principles: mutual respect and the desire to cooperate. If these principles are respected, we can work together, in spite of our political differences. France is ready to work on all issues in the framework of these principles./.

Italy – Statements made by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, to France Info

Paris, 8 February 2019

It is unusual to recall an ambassador from another European Union member country, but the behaviour and what has been said are unusual too.

What I would like is for the conditions to be met for us to resume a normal dialogue which respects our differences. We don’t share the same political choices as Matteo Salvini’s [Northern] League or Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement, but let everyone give precedence to a concern for managing their own country’s affairs, the well-being of their people and ensuring good relations with their neighbours./.

Italy – Recalling of the French Ambassador for consultations – Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

Paris, 7 February 2019

France and Italy are united by a common history; they share a destiny. They built Europe together and worked to achieve peace. France is deeply committed to this friendship, which fosters cooperation in all areas and closeness between our peoples. The French-Italian friendship is more essential than ever in order to address the challenges we face in the 21st century.

For several months now, France has – as everyone knows or may be aware – been the target of repeated accusations, baseless attacks and outrageous remarks. These attacks are unprecedented since the end of World War II. Having disagreements is one thing; using the relationship for election purposes is another.

The most recent intrusions constitute a further, unacceptable provocation. They show a lack of due respect for the democratic choice made by a people that is a friend and ally. They show a lack of due respect between democratically and freely elected governments.

The European election campaign is no justification for a lack of respect towards any people or its democracy.

All these actions create a serious situation which raises questions about the intentions of the Italian government vis-à-vis its relationship with France.

In light of this unprecedented situation, the French government has decided to recall the French Ambassador to Italy for consultations.

France calls on Italy to take action to restore the relationship of friendship and mutual respect that is commensurate with our history and our common destiny./.

Published on 09/01/2020

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