In the latest in a series of incendiary comments aimed at maligned centrist French president Emmanuel Macron, Italy's far-right Interior Minister worsened already strained relations between Rome and Paris by saying he hoped the French could soon free themselves of their “terrible president.”
“The opportunity will come on May 26 (the European elections) when finally the French people will be able to take back control of its future, destiny, (and) pride, which are poorly represented by a character like Macron”, Matteo Salvini said in his latest Facebook video taunting the government across the Alps.
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, said he felt “close, with all my heart… to the French people, the millions of men and women who live in France under a terrible government and terrible president.”
The French government is weakened after facing an outpouring of public anger in the gilets jaunes(Yellow Vests) protests that began in November, initially as a response to a fuel tax increase.
Thousands of rioters have been arrested in ten consecutive weekends of violence and unrest.
Italy’s populist leaders have publicly cheered on the protesters.
The fresh attack on Macron, who signed a new friendship treaty with Germany on Tuesday, was just the latest in a barrage of taunts and criticisms coming from Italy’s government this week.
On Monday, Salvini blamed French oil interests in Libya for Paris’ alleged lack of interest in “stabilising the situation” there.
And Italy’s ambassador was summoned by the French government yesterday in protest after Italy’s other deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio blamed France for impoverishing Africa and accused the country of continuing to “colonise” African nations.
The Five Star Movement (M5S) leader reportedly said on Sunday: “In order to keep the Africans in Africa, it would be enough for the French to stay at home.”
Relations between the two capitals, usually close EU allies, have deteriorated sharply since the M5S-League coalition became the European Union's first populist-only government in June last year.
Italy's far-right populist League (formerly the Northern League) is a close European ally of France's National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, formerly the National Front which, like Salvini's party, changed its name early last year in attempt to shake off its reputation for racism.