Italy summoned France’s envoy and angrily rejected French criticism of its immigration policies on Wednesday, escalating a diplomatic standoff between the two European powers.
Italy’s economy minister Giovanni Tria also cancelled a meeting with his counterpart in Paris a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with “cynicism and irresponsibility” by closing its ports to migrants.
Italy’s interior minister and the leader of the anti-immigrant League party Matteo Salvini told the Senate “We have nothing to learn about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming, and solidarity from anyone.”
Salvini, who is also deputy premier, called on France to apologize and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country which regularly stopped migrants on their shared border.
Both Italy and Malta refused to let a charity ship, Aquarius, carrying 629 migrants dock at their ports. It is now heading to Spain, escorted by two Italian ships.
France’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said it was “fully aware of the burden that the migration pressure is placing on Italy” and that it was committed to cooperating with Rome on immigration on Wednesday.
Italy’s foreign minister Enzo Moavero told a French envoy that Macron’s comments were “unjustifiable” and had compromised relations between the two countries.