So much for this famed EU solidarity we keep hearing about:
Mr Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) which governs in coalition with the far-right League party, made his latest comments during a visit to central Italy at the weekend.
“The EU should impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.
“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.”
He said if it wasn’t for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six.
Regardless of whether his remarks are fair or not, it does raise questions over just how united these EU nations are when it comes to stuff that actually matters:
The Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Paris on Monday.
French diplomatic sources quoted by Italian news agency Ansa called Mr Di Maio’s remarks “hostile and without cause given the partnership between France and Italy in the European Union”.
But Mr Di Maio, who is also labour and economy minister, was unrepentant on Monday.
He accused France of manipulating the economies of African countries that use the CFA franc, a colonial-era currency backed by the French treasury.
“France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts,” he said.
“If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa.”
I don’t know how much the CFA is contributing to the migrant crisis, but the stance of certain EU governments, not to mention well-funded NGOs, is certainly a large factor, yet Italy must bear the costs as they turn up on their coastline. Between a hostile Italian government and the gilets jaunes, Emmanuel Macron’s year really hasn’t got off to the best of starts, has it?