Macron Was Spoiling for a Fight With Italy’s Populists, Exposing the EU’s Fissures

Macron Was Spoiling for a Fight With Italy’s Populists, Exposing the EU’s Fissures
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini during a press conference in Rome, Italy, Jan. 14, 2019 (Photo by Riccardo Antimiani for ANSA via AP Images).

French President Emmanuel Macron called for reconciliation with Italy last week, after a heated diplomatic spat briefly led France to recall its ambassador from Rome for the first time since World War II. While the temperature has since come down a bit, the war of words reflects a larger battle being waged between members of the European Union over issues like immigration and fiscal policy, says Jan Zielonka, a professor of European politics at the University of Oxford and the author of “Counter-Revolution: Liberal Europe in Retreat.” In an interview with WPR, he discusses the EU-wide political implications of France and Italy’s falling-out.

World Politics Review: What is behind this ongoing dispute between France and Italy, and how did it get so bad?

Jan Zielonka: The story seems a bit melodramatic at first, but it is actually very serious. After all, Italy and France are both founding members of the European integration project. If they cannot get along, who can?

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