French president to hold high-level talks in Italy amid hope for reboot of relations

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Rome today ahead of meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and PM Giuseppe Conte.

macron conte

Photo: Ludovic Marin/Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Rome today ahead of meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and PM Giuseppe Conte.

On September 5, a new Italian coalition government was formed between the centre-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. While the two parties have been at loggerheads in the past, they united against former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right Northern League, who forced the collapse of the previous government.

Relations between Italy and France suffered during Salvini’s 14 months as deputy prime minister. Notably, the anti-immigration government threatened to divert migrant boats to France, which became a major point of tension. At one point, Salvini labelled Macron an “arrogant and hypocritical” man on immigration issues.

Following Salvini’s ouster, Paris has expressed hopes for improved bilateral relations with Rome; French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian noted his pleasure that “there are no more insults being traded”.

However, issues remain. Conte has been adamant that migrants be equally distributed around EU member states, which could potentially send more migrants to France. Given the popular support among Italian voters for hardline immigration policies, Conte will likely continue some of his predecessor’s policies that irked Macron, but with softer rhetoric.

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