Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said French President Emmanuel Macron saw his meeting with Yellow Vests protesters as “lese-majeste,” defending a controversial move that prompted Paris to recall the French ambassador from Rome and sparked a crisis in bilateral ties.
Di Maio, of the anti-establishment
Five Star Movement, told reporters on a visit to Milan on Sunday that it was legitimate for him to meet a group about to stand in May’s
European Parliament elections, as his own party is also standing. He mocked Macron for treating the meeting as a crime of offending royalty.
“I’m sorry that Macron lived this as a bit lese-majeste,” Di Maio said. “It’s normal that a political force which doesn’t share the ideas of En Marche can speak to another force which is running in the European elections,” Di Maio said, referring to Macron’s political party.
Relations between France and Italy sank to a new low last week when Paris
recalled its ambassador, citing meddling in domestic affairs after Di Maio met with senior figures of the Yellow Vests movement in France.
Di Maio said the Italian coalition government, which is divided on a $10 billion France-Italy high-speed rail project, would reach a deal on the plan.
“We have always reached agreement in this government, we will reach a deal” on the TAV rail link, Di Maio said. Di Maio is against the project while his coalition partner, the rightist League of fellow Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, is in favor.