Italy vs Macron

Italy vs Macron

What is Italy's Deputy PM doing in Paris, and why did France just recall its ambassador from Rome?

"The winds of change have crossed the Alps." So said Italy's populist prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, this week after meeting with representatives of the French protest movement known as the "gilets jaunes."



Di Maio told reporters that his party and the French protesters share "many common positions and values that focus on the battles for citizens, social rights, direct democracy and the environment." The French government's reaction was predictably harsh: "This new provocation is not acceptable between neighboring countries and partners in the European Union."

This is just the latest point of contention between the Italian and French governments. In recent months:

  • Italy's Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has pushed back several times against French criticism of his country's refusal to accept ships carrying Middle Eastern refugees. Last month, Salvini charged that "In Libya, France has no interest in stabilizing the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy."
  • Di Maio went further: "If people are leaving Africa today it is because some European countries, led by France, have never stopped colonizing tens of African states."
  • An Italian lawmaker extended the feud into the cultural arena this week by suggesting her government cancel the loan of paintings and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci scheduled for exhibition in Paris. "Leonardo is Italian," she reminded reporters. "He only died in France."
  • Much of the Italian criticism is focused directly on French President Emmanuel Macron. "I don't take lessons on humanity and generosity from Macron," Salvini said recently. He has also blamed the French president's policies for the "gilets jaunes" protests. "Macron reduced taxes for the very well-off and increased them for those less well off," Salvini explained.
  • How did France explain its decision to recall its ambassador from Rome? "For several months France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outlandish claims," explained the French foreign ministry.

What's happening here? Perhaps Italian officials are simply stung by Macron's criticism of its immigration policies and want to signal they won't be pushed around. But there may also be a more sophisticated political calculation at work.

Both parties in Italy's coalition government—Di Maio's Five Star Movement and Salvini's Lega—rouse crowds and win votes with noisy attacks on the EU. Last year, a high-profile standoff with the EU over Italy's national budget ended with an embarrassing Italian retreat.

Maybe, beyond their personal dislike for Macron, Di Maio and Salvini now see an opportunity to score points at the EU's expense by avoiding direct confrontation with Brussels in favor of political attacks on the man most closely associated with support for centralized European power.

Irony alert: Di Maio and Salvini are hoping to strengthen the role of populists with wins in May's elections for the European Parliament. But if they're also hoping to weaken (the already unpopular) Macron at home, support for the "gilets jaunes" might not be the smartest way of doing it. These protesters are pulling support away from France's far-right and far-left, and their movement has already splintered into five separate political parties. You can't punish a president by fragmenting his opposition.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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After Biden's first visit, do his European allies feel that America is back?

I think they do. Wasn't particularly surprising, we've heard that message before. But now it was, sort of more concrete issues. I'm not certain there was, sort of major, major, major progress. But there was the beginning of a dialogue on trade and technology issues with Europe, clearly on security issues with NATO, and quite a number of other issues with G7, and general satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting with Putin. So, altogether good.

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Listen: Former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder weighs in on US President Joe Biden's first trip abroad, which included a very important first stop at the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, and the way forward for the US and its closest friends. Did he convince allies that "America is back" and ready to resume its leadership role in global affairs? And if so, does it even matter if Americans still need to be convinced that US engagement in the world is vital? Daalder speaks with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

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Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

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