An interview at the Élysée at the end of the afternoon, this Tuesday, June 20, with Giorgia Meloni, but no dinner with the one who nevertheless represents France’s second economic partner. This apparent “detail” of the protocol is not without questioning when, on June 16, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Ben Salmane (alias “MBS”) was received with all respect for lunch at the Elysée. France quickly forgot the assassination, inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in 2018, of the Saudi opponent Jamal Khashoggi. “The difference in treatment is obvious,” says Jean-Pierre Darnis, professor at Luiss University in Rome.
Between France and Italy, there is no shortage of important files. “The investments and the importance of the exchanges create a permanent integration between the two countries. This relationship cannot be seen only through the cultural and historical prism. Managing it is not without problems, ”recalls Jean-Pierre Darnis.
The subjects of convergence are numerous: the Ukrainian dossier and the strong support of the two capitals for Kiev, the renegotiation of the European budgetary stability pact, the Lyon-Turin railway line desired by the two countries or the implementation of the Quirinal Treaty. , signed in 2021. But strong differences exist between the two countries, as on the migration issue: Italy regularly reminds that it feels very alone in the face of the massive arrivals of migrants on its coasts and that Europe is not doing much to share this burden. Last subject of annoyance to date: Rome’s candidacy for the Universal Exhibition of 2030, which Giorgia Meloni comes to defend in Paris, while France supports that of Riyadh.
Several meetings between Macron and Meloni
Between Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni, the agreement is far from being as cordial as with the predecessor of this one, Mario Draghi, or with the Italian president Sergio Mattarella, received warmly by the French president at the beginning of June. The Élysée insisted on this occasion on the “exceptional ties which unite” the two countries. None of this between Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni. The two political leaders have however already met on several occasions, including twice face to face.
Last October, the French president was the first head of state to meet in Rome – during a trip to the peace summit and a meeting in the Vatican with the pope – with the brand new Italian elected official, even before she officially took office. At the G20 in Japan in May, they had a 45-minute tete-a-tete and their foreign ministers a talk described as “warm” a month ago in Rome. The current is also going well between the ministers of the economy on both sides. “The issues between the two countries are so important and the integration so strong that they must be dealt with at the highest level”, recalls Jean-Pierre Darnis.
Two politically very distant leaders
How, then, to explain these recurring tensions between Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni? Admittedly, the two leaders are politically very distant: the first claims to be frankly pro-European progressive; the second, which comes from a post-fascist party and which has adopted clearly Eurosceptic positions in the past, is at the head of an ultra-conservative coalition. However, as Jean-Pierre Darnis points out, “there has been no liberticidal shift in Italy and the Italian opposition disputes every law. Even if some in the government can have some proximities with the history of fascism, the judicial institutions are respected. Italy is neither Poland nor Hungary”.
For the teacher at the Luiss in Rome, these tensions are above all linked to a “politicization” of the relationship for the purposes of an internal agenda. As proof, he adds, the attack by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin against Giorgia Meloni, whom the former accused last May of being incapable of managing immigration to his country.