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Italy dissatisfied with lackluster French apology for insulting comment on migration

Italy remains dissatisfied with the apologies offered by Paris after a French minister accused Rome of mishandling the influx of migrants, Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani said on Sunday.

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“Clearer words are needed,” Tajani, who is a member of the conservative Forza Italia party, told Italian state-owned television RAI in an interview.

“I hope that the French government changes its position and that an apology comes that represents a contrast to the positions adopted by the Interior Minister. I will be happy to accept them.”

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said last week that Italy’s conservative Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had been “unable to solve the migration problems on which she was elected”. Darmanin added that Meloni was “unable to solve the migration problems on which she was elected”, going so far as to say that she was “lying” to voters that she could end the migrant crisis.

Tajani called off a visit to Paris at the last minute on Thursday in a sign of protest over what he considered an “insult” to Italy.

“If someone offends in a gratuitous manner, the least they could do is apologize,” Tajani told Il Corriere della Sera newspaper. “In this case, he offended all Italians, as well as the government and the prime minister.”

France was swift on Thursday to issue a statement in which it sought to reassure Rome of its willingness to work closely with Italy, but that was not enough to persuade Tajani to travel to Paris. French government spokesman Olivier Véran sought to defuse tensions on Friday, telling CNews he was sure there had been no desire on the part of the Darmanin to ostracize Italy.

Tajani later told RAI public television that Paris appeared to have understood that “a serious mistake was made”, but also signaling that Rome.

“On our part, there is no intention to break off relations or have negative relations with France,” he said. “I hope this polemic may soon be over.”

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Darmanin went further comparing Meloni to far-right French leader Marine Le Pen, a political foe of Macron. “The extreme right has a vice. That of lying to the population,” Darmanin said.

“That’s typical Darmanin. Macron likes to have someone who can play bad cop on the right so he can play good cop on the European stage, and because it allows him to show center-right voters that you can be pro-European and hard on immigration,” said Bruno Cautres of the Sciences-Po university.

Immigration is a hot-button topic between France and Italy, partners in the European Union whose visions of the world were similar under Mario Draghi’s leadership but have diverged since Meloni took office in October at the head of a conservative government.

Darmanin is close to French President Emmanuel Macron and lashed out at Rome last November, accusing Meloni’s government of being “selfish” for refusing to let a charity rescue ship dock in Italy, forcing it to head to France instead.

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