In an extraordinary public EU feud, Italy’s Matteo Salvini and his coalition partner have thrown their support behind France’s Yellow Vest movement, while Salvini also accused President Emmanuel Macron of being against his people.
“I support honest citizens who protest against a governing president [who is] against his people,” said the Italian deputy prime minister.
However, the leader of the Northern League added that he “firmly” condemns the recent violence that has marred the protests.
Vice-President of the Council of Ministers of Italy Luigi Di Maio, who is the leader of the Five-Star Movement (M5S), urged the demonstrators on his party’s blog “not to weaken.”
Di Maio said that politics, in both France and Italy, “has become deaf to the needs of citizens who have been kept out of the most important decisions affecting the people.”
The cry that rises strongly from the French squares is ultimately one of ‘let us participate!’
The Yellow Vest movement began in mid-November 2018 as a protest against a proposed hike in fuel costs. It has since grown to encompass wider discontent among French people over living standards and Macron’s policies. At its peak, more than 280,000 people gathered to protest on the Champs-Elysees on November 17.
Macron and Salvini have a well-documented rivalry and history of public name-calling. Most recently, in December, Salvini mocked the French president as a “lab mouse elected to keep the elitist political system in place.”
The pair have often locked heads over immigration policy during the Mediterranean migrant crisis. In typical fashion the disagreement descended into a war of words, with Salvini calling Macron and “international embarrassment” last October after policemen were spotted dropping migrants off in an Italian forest on the countries shared border.