June 5, 2023
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The head of French diplomacy Catherine Colonna and her Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani met Thursday in Rome in a “warm” and “very cordial” atmosphere, a meeting intended to dispel misunderstandings between the two countries after the tensions on the ‘immigration.

Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister and number two of Forza Italia (right), minor partner of Giorgia Meloni’s ultra-conservative coalition, received Ms Colonna at the Farnesina, headquarters of the Italian Foreign Ministry.

“Happy to have welcomed Minister Colonna to the Farnesina. Italy and France share interests and responsibilities in the EU and in the world. Our collaboration is essential to solve the current crises, starting with that of immigration”, tweeted Antonio Tajani.

“We may have had divergent positions, but it is important to have a constructive dialogue (…) through the appropriate channels”, underlined Mr. Tajani in a press release, evoking a “very cordial climate”.

Catherine Colonna thanked him on Twitter for his “warm welcome”.

“Confident exchanges on Ukraine, Tunisia, migrations, European defense in particular. Franco-Italian cooperation is essential to move forward. Andiamo avanti insieme!” (Let’s move forward together in Italian), she wrote.

Before her trip, Catherine Colonna, ambassador in Rome from 2014 to 2017, had assured that France was “certainly not” in crisis with its Italian neighbor.

The reactions were however strong in the peninsula after the remarks on May 4 of the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, judging Giorgia Meloni “unable to solve the migratory problems on which she was elected”.

Antonio Tajani then canceled his meeting with Catherine Colonna, scheduled for the same day in Paris.

Italy criticizes its European partners for not taking their part in welcoming migrants who arrive on its territory after crossing the Mediterranean. Especially since, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, around half of the 46,000 people who have landed on its shores since the start of the year come from French-speaking countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tunisia, Burkina Faso ).

On the occasion of the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik in mid-May, Emmanuel Macron admitted that the EU should do more to help Italy. “The Italian people as countries of first arrival are under very strong migratory pressure and we cannot leave Italy alone,” said the French president.

Solidarity diplomacy

A trip by Giorgia Meloni to Paris in June is under consideration. “I think dates are being looked at, but that’s yet to be seen,” Ms Colonna said earlier this week.

In the meantime, the two countries are working on a visit by Italian President Sergio Mattarella to the French capital on June 7 to inaugurate with Emmanuel Macron the Louvre exhibition of masterpieces from the Capodimonte museum in Naples, an Italian source said.

Despite the political differences between Mr. Macron, who poses as a European bulwark against nationalism, and Mrs. Meloni, who defends a Christian Europe threatened with “migratory submersion”, the French “have come to the conclusion that the Italian government (…) will stay there for a while and that they have to talk to each other,” analyzes political scientist Franco Pavoncello, president of John Cabot University in Rome.

“Relations between Paris and Rome are too important to be frozen. With the exit of Great Britain [de l’UE] and given the weight of Germany, these relations become even more important”, he judges.

Tragic circumstance, diplomatic windfall: the deadly floods which ravaged Emilia-Romagna, a rich region in the northeast, last week enabled France to give pledges of goodwill to its neighbor.

Responding to the call from Rome, Paris announced the dispatch of pumping resources and personnel from military civil security formations. “Solidarity at work,” Mr. Macron tweeted on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni – very Atlanticist – are perfectly aligned on the most sensitive diplomatic and military dossier, that of Ukraine, notes Franco Pavoncello.

“They want to break the ice. They start talking to each other and understanding that, for better or for worse, they have common interests,” he notes.

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