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“A new Europe is being born”: Italy praises Yellow Vest movement

  • Elis Gjevori
  • 9 Jan 2019

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Five Star Movement Luigi Di Maio offered support to the Yellow Vest movement that has thrown French President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership into turmoil.

( AFP )

Both leaders from the populist right-wing coalition, Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, leader of the party Lega Nord, threw their weight behind the Yellow Vest movement on Monday.  

The coalition allies share a deep distrust of the EU, globalisation and the Italian establishment - and together command more than 60 percent of parliament.  

"Yellow vests, do not give up!" Di Maio wrote in a post on his party’s blog

In a call for more direct voter participation, the deputy PM added: “In France, as in Italy, politics has become deaf to the needs of citizens who have been kept out of the most important decisions affecting the people.”

The Five Star Movement, formed in 2009, as a protest against the perceived failures of the central government, which included spiralling unemployment, economic stagnation, widening inequality and EU-imposed austerity measures. 

De Maio implored the Yellow Vest movement to ignore the French elite speaking down to them. 

“At the beginning, we had to endure the teasing of old politicians and the fierce media attacks,” he said. 

However, he added: “The Five Star Movement, less than four years after its birth, despite the insults and sneers, has entered Parliament and after less than nine years today we are in government and those who teased us today disappeared from the political scene”. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Salvini, gave his backing to the Yellow Vest movement as early as November last year. 

Macron has been a strong critic of the Salvini and De Maio-led government in Rome, and the Italian government has used to the opportunity to take advantage of Paris’s woes.

Professor Matthew Goodwin, author of the recent book "National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy" sees growing tensions between Rome and Paris as part of shifting alliances within the EU. 

"It is unsurprising, after several disputes with Macron, that Italy's populists have lined up behind the Yellow Vests. This speaks volumes about the shifting alliances in Europe and the way in which Macron increasingly finds himself isolated on the European stage" added Goodwin.

In December of last year, Salvini accused Macron of being a president for the rich and ignoring the less well-off, adding: “History will probably show that if (Macron) had focused more on the French and less on Salvini and Italy, he would have a few less problems today.” 

Commenting on a video, Salvini said: “It's nice to know you have supporters even among the French tired of Macron.”

Seeing two European Union founding member states squabble so publically, willing each other’s government to fall, is likely to make Brussels nervous. 

The feud between Paris and Rome stems from Macron’s assault over the summer, seeking to take on the nationalists of Europe. 

Once seen as a saviour of the EU liberal order, Macron has found himself at odds not only with his population - his approval rating is less than 23 percent - but also several European states, including Italy and Hungary, against whom he has spoken out.

In October last year, Salvini accused French police of dropping off migrants in an Italian forest, calling it an “unprecedented offence against Italy” and adding in an Instagram post, “we do not accept the apology.”

This was in retaliation to an earlier spat with France in July of last year when Macron accused the Italian government of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for refusing to let a migrant ship dock at an Italian port. 

The spat between the two countries threatens to worsen EU political and economic divisions as each country exploits the other’s political and socio-economic tensions while underscoring the increasingly sour relations between Paris and Rome.

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