France recalls Italy envoy over 'unprecedented' criticism

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

The French government blamed the move on "baseless verbal attacks" from Italy's leaders, which it said were "unprecedented" since the end of the second world war. Italy's hostile interference in French affairs "has no precedent since the war", said the French foreign ministry.

France and Italy have been trading barbs in recent months over migration and budgets.

Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), announced on Tuesday he had met near Paris with yellow vest leader Christophe Chalencon and candidates on a yellow vest list for European Parliament elections in May.

December 2018: Italian deputy PM Luigi Di Maio says France risks budget sanctions from Brussels - under the same rules applied to Italy - after Macron makes expensive concessions to the rioters.

That came after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Macron "a awful president" in January.

French President Emmanuel Macron blasted Rome for refusing to take in a migrant rescue ship carrying hundreds of people. Di Maio has said the populist 5-Star Movement he leads was ready to help the French protesters and has accused France of fueling Europe's immigration difficulties. And the Italian government last fall accused France of dumping underage migrants over the border without authorization.

The big question is whether the spat will have any longer-term repercussions and whether for Italy, it's worth the short-term gain of having got a rise out of France.

During a visit to Egypt last month, Macron sought to shrug off the sparring, calling Salvini and Di Maio's comments "insignificant" and adding that he dealt only with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

"The winds of change have crossed the Alps", Di Maio said on Twitter.

"This new provocation is not acceptable between neighboring countries and partners in the European Union", a foreign ministry spokesman said in a daily online briefing.

Conte, a political unknown who became prime minister previous year as a compromise between Salvini and Di Maio, was caught on video at last month's World Economic Forum in Davos discussing the dispute with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said such measures won't resolve the political crisis brewing in the country.

Media captionFrance fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests?

The French president is hoping to forge an alliance of pro-European centrists ahead of the bloc's parliamentary vote, against a wave of populist movements in several European countries.

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