French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne called on Friday for a "calm dialogue" with Rome on the immigration file, hours after Italy demanded an apology for the "insult" of its Prime Minister Georgia Meloni by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Edited by | Adam Lurkade

World news section

6 MAY 2023- PARIS

    A diplomatic crisis erupted Thursday between the two pivotal countries in the European Union, after statements by Darmanan, in which he considered that Meloni was "incapable" of solving the immigration problem in her country. This drew sharp criticism from Italy, whose foreign minister, Antonio Taiani, canceled a planned visit to the French capital.

The French Prime Minister sought to complete the attempt to deal with the consequences of the crisis by affirming Paris's "respect" for Rome.

"I repeat that Italy is an essential partner for France and that our relationship is based on mutual respect, and we will give priority to consultation and calm dialogue to continue working together," Borne told reporters.

This came in response to a question about the possibility of an apology to Italy, following its meeting in Paris with Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo.

And the latter confirmed, after the brief response to his counterpart, "I agree 100 percent. For us, too, Italy is a major partner."

This came hours after the Italian Foreign Minister considered that the French minister's remarks were an unjustified "insult" to Meloni.

"It is an unwarranted and vulgar insult directed at a friendly and ally country," Antonio Taiani said in an interview with the newspaper "Il Corriere della Sera," and "when a person offends another without justification, the minimum is that he apologizes." Meloni is "incapable of solving immigration problems" in her country.

In contact with France Press on Friday, the French Ministry of the Interior did not want to comment on the issue of the Italian government's request from the French side to apologize.

Meloni herself has yet to make any comment on this crisis since it erupted.

Taiani considered Darmanan's statements "unacceptable", canceling a planned visit to the French capital.

In an attempt to stop the escalation, the French Foreign Ministry issued a clarification saying that it "hoped" that a new date would be set for the Italian foreign minister's visit.

"I spoke on the phone with my colleague Antonio Taiani," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna wrote in Italian on Twitter.

"I assured him that the relationship between Italy and France is based on mutual respect," she added.

In turn, Taiani said, "Catherine Colonna called me twice to express her regret, she was very friendly," considering that the explanations provided by Paris were still "insufficient."

"It is a cold attack, a stab in the back from a prominent member of the French government. There are things that cannot be ignored. However, it is certain that the rest of the members of (French President Emmanuel) Macron's government do not think like Darmanin," Taianay said.


Immigration has been a very sensitive topic in French-Italian relations for years.

In November, the two countries witnessed a significant increase in migrant crossings when the soon-to-be Meloni government refused to allow the docking of the SOS Mediterranean humanitarian ship that France ended up receiving in Toulon with 200 migrants on board.

This incident angered France, which called for a meeting at the European level so that this unprecedented scenario would not be repeated.

Since then, clandestine boat crossings have increased, with the emergence of a new sea corridor between Tunisia and Italy, one of Europe's main gateways for irregular migrants.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior says that more than 42,000 people arrived in Italy this year across the Mediterranean, compared to about 11,000 during the same period in 2022.

But about half of them come from French-speaking countries (Ivory Coast, Guinea, Tunisia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Mali), according to figures from the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

"This is why tensions between the two countries are so strong," said Didier Leshy, director of the French Office for Migration and Integration.

On Friday, French government spokesman Olivier Ferrand tried to calm the souls, saying, "There is no desire to ostracize Italy."

"The Italians, they discuss, they love politics, but they take responsibility for the choices they've made and they want us to let them take responsibility for their choices, which is good because we don't intend to do anything else," he added.

Later, it seemed that Antonio Taiani also wanted to ease tensions, saying that "the words spoken by the French government spokesman go in the direction of someone who realizes that he has made a grave mistake."

In response to a question about this disagreement on the sidelines of a trip to Florence, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell indicated that the issue of migration flows is a "common problem" in the EU countries that must be managed "with the utmost unity".

"I am sure that these difficulties will be overcome," he added.

In addition to the news of Napoli's coronation in the Italian Football League championship, this new dispute between the two neighboring countries topped the headlines of Italian newspapers on Friday morning.

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