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France plays down latest row with Italy on migration

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The French government sought to play down a fresh row with Italy over migration on Friday, saying Rome was an “essential partner” after a spat with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Italy’s foreign minister cancelled a trip to Paris on Thursday over what he termed “unacceptable” comments from French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who said Meloni was “incapable” of tackling her country’s migration crisis.

Italy is an essential partner to France… our relationship is founded on mutual respect,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said late Friday.

“We will prioritise consultation and calm dialogue to continue to work together,” she added.

French government spokesman Olivier Veran had earlier told the Cnews channel that “there was no desire from the interior minister to ostracise Italy in any way at all”.

“We have discussions with the Italians — they love politics — but they want to do things their own way, and they want others to let them,” he added. 

“And that’s good because we don’t intend to do otherwise.”

Italian media reports on Friday suggested Darmanin’s outburst infuriated Rome, with Meloni said to be on the verge of cancelling a planned trip to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron.

In a television interview on Thursday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Darmanin’s remarks were “a stab in the back” and he was waiting for him to “apologise to the prime minister, the government, and Italy”.

‘Gratuitous and vulgar’

On Friday, Tajani again demanded an apology, saying that was “the least that they can do”.

In an interview with newspaper Il Corriere della Sera he also called Darmanin’s remark a “gratuitous and vulgar insult towards a friendly and allied country”. 

The French and Italian governments have clashed repeatedly in recent years over the management of their common land border and the admission of humanitarian boats carrying migrants rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean.

French Transport Minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of Macron and a former Europe minister, was less conciliatory than Veran in a separate interview on Friday.

He stressed the political differences between Meloni’s right-wing government and Macron’s pro-EU centrist cabinet.

“There is not a solution to the migration issue which does not include European cooperation,” Beaune told Europe 1 radio.

“And you can see that every time there’s an attempt to go it alone, whichever country it is, it doesn’t work,” he added.

Separately on Friday, the head of French immigration authority OFII said nearly a half of migrants arriving on Italy’s Mediterranean shore were from French-speaking sub-Saharan African countries.

Within those French-speaking arrivals, citizens of Ivory Coast were the biggest group, OFII boss Didier Leschi told the Franceinfo broadcaster.

Many of the arrivals headed straight to France and were rarely properly registered by the Italian authorities, Leschi said.

“That’s why there are strong tensions between the two countries,” he said.

EU rules call for migrants to be registered in the arrival country first, and for subsequent discussions to determine which migrants should go to what EU member country, he said.

“It is urgent to improve the burden distribution across the EU,” he said.


This story originally appeared on France24

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