French ambassador to Italy recalled as relations sour

Matthew Meyer, The Carroll News

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The French Foreign Ministry recalled “for consultations” its ambassador to Italy from the capital city of Rome on Feb. 7.

The unexpected move comes amid times of growing tensions between the United States and Russia.

The last time France recalled its ambassador to Italy was following Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s declaration of war on France in World War II, according to The Associated Press.

Despite claims from the French Foreign Ministry that the recall was for “consultations” with the diplomat, many experts see this as a warning sign aimed directly towards Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio.

Though the two nations have been seen as close allies over the last few decades, the Italian-Franco relationship has slowly been deteriorating in the past few months. In January, Di Maio met with a group of France’s Yellow Vest protestors running as candidates for the European Parliament.

Along with this, Di Maio has long been a critic of French President Emmanuel Macron, stating, drawing a distinction between the French people and Macron’s administration, “French citizens are our friends and our allies. … President Macron has repeatedly attacked the Italian government for political reasons in view of the European elections,” according to The New York Times.

When asked about the dispute between France and Italy, John Carroll political science professor and International Relations specialist Jennifer Ziemke commented, “This example shows that internal divisions are increasingly dividing the European Union against itself, especially when taken together with the very real possibility of a hard Brexit on the near horizon.

“These tendencies only serve to weaken the western, pro-NATO alliance more generally and, on a geostrategic level, end up largely benefiting Russia and other strategic rivals of both the United States and Western Europe,” Ziemke said.

Assuming nothing is done to resolve this growing issue, further dissension is probable, and may warrant concern from the citizens of Western nations.

The growing tension between France and Italy has been representative of another significant battle playing out across the entire European Union between Pro-EU factions and nationalist movements within the countries themselves.

According to The Washington Post, Di Maio and the rapidly expanding nationalist movement within Italy has begun taking further actions supporting EU protest movements, such as the Yellow Vest protests in France.

Though many experts hold this international “interference” culpable for the strain in the Italian-Franco relationship, Macron’s retaliation of recalling its ambassador has been viewed as an unnecessary escalation of action.

Even further, with pressures rising and neither side backing down from their stance, the dispute between France and Italy looks unlikely to be resolved quickly and without issue.

France and Italy have had close relations since the end of the Second World War. Both countries entered into the European Community in 1957, which would later become the European Union in 1993.

Editor’s Note: Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.