In a stunning act signalling the deterioration of relations last seen at the end of World War 2, France shockingly and rather abruptly withdrew its ambassador to Italy. The act comes hot off the heels of Italy’s Deputy PM’s shocking meeting with French anti-government protesters and ‘yellow-vest’ leader Christophe Chalencon.
The French foreign ministry stated in an official statement that their ambassador has returned to France for ‘consultations’. They added that the recalling was a response to ‘unfounded attacks and outlandish claims (from the Italian government)’. On the other hand, Italian Deputy PM Di Maio defended his actions as legitimate, calling the French protesters his ‘friends and allies’.
What are the implications?
The act comes fresh from the current migrant crisis that the EU is currently facing, with member states struggling to handle large numbers of refugee seekers. Tensions have slowly been rising, with Italy and France both engaging in a blame game, accusing each other of not shouldering the responsibility of taking in asylum seekers appropriately.
The decision to withdraw the single most important figurehead of diplomacy signals a departure from civic diplomacy between the two EU countries. Members of the EU usually resolve inter-state conflicts via existing political frameworks put in place by the Union. This, in turn, adds to the unprecedented nature of France’s decision to unilaterally remove their diplomat – without much attempt at consulting the EU.
French PM Macron may view Italy’s visitation of rebel ‘yellow-vest’ leader Chalencon as a direct infringement of their sovereignty, with Macron giving strong signals that he views the act as a cheap shot at furthering Italy’s political goals.
This diplomatic spat between both nations has thus seemed to reach a tipping point, with Italy’s Deputy PM’s meddling with the internal politics of France striking a nerve within the France hierarchy. Despite the stark nature of the withdrawal, such an act is not unheard of. However, it is important to note that such acts usually lead to a complete breakdown of diplomatic relations. Such an event may send shockwaves throughout the EU, a blow to the legitimacy and strength of the EU, resulting from both parties refusing to even make use of existing Union platforms available.