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Le Drian: Ambassador back in Rome soon

France made a peace gesture in a dispute with Italy, saying it would soon send its ambassador back to Rome

Feb 14


France made a peace offering in a dispute with Italian populist leaders, saying it would soon send its ambassador back to Rome after what Paris saw as meddling in internal affairs.

“Today, I can tell you that the return of our ambassador will happen very soon,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview with an Italian newspaper. The two neighbors have been “friends and allies for a long time,” he added.

A visit to France by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio to meet members of the Yellow Vests protest movement prompted France to recall its ambassador back to Paris for consultations last week, a postwar low in bilateral relations. Fellow Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini has, like Di Maio, repeatedly attacked French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.

“France has been the object for several months of repeated attacks and exaggerated accusations,” Le Drian said.

But a phone conversation between Macron and President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday had helped relations.

“They share the same vision of this relationship which strengthens each of us and is a strong commitment,” Le Drian said.

Le Drian said France favors a proposed takeover by Italy’s Fincantieri SpA of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, which had led the European Commission to review the plan as a potential antitrust violation.

“It’s a good agreement. I hope it happens,” Le Drian said. “Moreover, the French and German anti-trust authorities are independent of the governments.”

Le Drian tackled some of the Franco-Italian issues which have yet to be resolved. On a $10 billion-euro Alpine rail link project, which has divided the Rome coalition, Le Drian said France is “very attentive to the calendar, to deadlines which condition European financing. Now the Italian government must take a decision quickly.”