The ideas of the Yellow Vests describe Europe’s future, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio has insisted, as he defended his meeting with the French protesters which enraged Paris.
In a letter to French newspaper Le Monde, Di Maio stressed that he was impressed by the Yellow Vests’ manifesto and said their demands “go beyond the right and the left and put the citizen and his needs at the centre.”
“This is why I wanted to meet with Yellow Vest representatives… because I don’t believe that Europe’s political future lies with parties on the right or left, or with so-called ‘new’ parties which in reality follow tradition,” he wrote.
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Di Maio also criticized the current and the former French governments and accused them of pursuing ultra-liberal policies that have “increased citizens’ insecurity” and “reduced their spending power.” He said he wasn’t surprised that French people are protesting against the “dismantling of some of their rights”.
However, he said that France was a “friendly country” and described its people as “a point of reference” in pursuing of social and civil rights.
The letter is seen as an attempt to calm tensions after a row between Italy and France which escalated after Di Maio travelled to France to meet Yellow Vest leaders who are seeking to run in May’s European Parliament elections.
The following day the French government blasted his visit as a “provocation” and on 7 February announced that it had recalled the ambassador to Rome.
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Earlier on Friday, the French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau explained that the recall of the ambassador was a response to Italy ‘crossing the line.’
“It’s not about being dramatic, it’s about saying ‘playtime is over’,” Loiseau told Radio Classique.