France recalls Italy envoy over 'unprecedented' criticism

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

France's foreign ministry said Thursday it had recalled its ambassador to Rome for consultations after a series of "provocations" by leaders of Italy's populist government.

"The meeting comes after Di Maio reached out to the Yellow Vests, writing on his blog in January, "Yellow Vests, do not weaken!"

It said Italy's attacks were without precedent since World War II.

French authorities have condemned a meeting earlier this week held between Italy's deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio and the "yellow vest" leadership.

That prompted France to summon Italy's ambassador in protest.

He also posted a picture of himself with "yellow-vest" leader Christophe Chalençon and Ingrid Levavasseur, who is heading a "yellow-vest" (gilets jaunes) list for elections to the European Parliament in May.

"Disagreeing is one thing, exploiting relations for electoral ends is another", the ministry added.

December 2018: Italian deputy PM Luigi Di Maio says France risks budget sanctions from Brussels - under the same rules applied to Italy - after Macron makes expensive concessions to the rioters.

The yellow vest protests, hostile to the French government but especially to Macron, have upended French domestic politics for almost three months, campaigning against what they see as rising social inequality and a government largely indifferent to the concerns of ordinary people.

Macron has at times responded, criticising Italy last June for its refusal to accept a boatload of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, and taking aim at Rome's public finances.

Di Maio had already drawn Paris's ire after he accused France of fuelling the migrant influx to Europe by continuing to "colonise" Africa.

The two governments have clashed over a range of issues, including immigration.

The French Foreign Ministry called that an "unacceptable" interference in French democracy, and unprecedented since the two neighbours joined together after the Second World War to help create the European Union.

The verbal sparring has only intensified since with Salvini calling Macron a "terrible president" last month in a Facebook video.

Media captionFrance fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests? He said he hoped French voters would send Macron a message during the European elections by showing their support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, with whom Salvini is allied in European politics. "We are concrete people and we defend the interests of Italians", he said.

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