April 18. 2024. 12:23

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Meloni under fire for exclusion from Franco-German duo

The exclusion of the Italian government from two key meetings of France and Germany with US officials and Ukraine President Volodimir Zelenskyy has sparked a debate in Rome about Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s “EU isolation”.

For its part, the Italian government points the finger at Paris, saying it’s preventing Europe from a “united” line, while others in Italy reminisced about the time when Mario Draghi was in power.

Meloni was not invited to a working dinner on Wednesday in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Italian conservative leader described the incident as “inappropriate”.

“I believe that our strength in this matter is unity, and I understand the pressures of domestic politics […], but there are times when privileging one’s own domestic public opinion risks being to the detriment of the cause,” she said.

Macron replied that he wanted to receive President Zelenskyy with Chancellor Scholz.

“I think we were in our role. Germany and France have had a special role for eight years on the issue [the conflict between Ukraine and Russia] because we led this process together. I think it is up to President Zelenskyy to appreciate the formats he chooses [for diplomatic talks]”, he added.

A week ago, the cconomy ministers of France and Germany met in Washington to discuss the consequences of the Inflation Reduction Act introduced by the US. Again, Italy was not invited.

Speaking to Corriere della Sera, Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti (Lega) commented: “We were not informed, and the thing does not offend us, it surprises us. If Italy would have done it, this government would have been accused of being sovereignist and anti-European. We would be on trial”.

Draghi ‘nostalgia’

In Italy, the opposition jumped at the chance to criticise Meloni, accusing her of being “isolated” at the EU level.

“To fuel a controversy with France on the day Zelenskyy goes to Brussels, and Europe shows itself united precisely because it welcomes him with pomp is a very serious mistake by Giorgia Meloni”, said Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione (Renew Europe).

“It is very serious to do so with the wrong motivations: that is, branding the French initiative, which is completely normal, as an initiative that breaks European unity, while in reality, what breaks the European unity is a polemic at the wrong time and with the wrong tone”, he added.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR), while Azione is affiliated with Macron’s Renew Europe group.

Italian media tried to draw comparisons between Italy’s position in the EU under Mario Draghi and the current situation under Meloni, some posting a picture of Draghi, Sholz and Macron travelling together to Kyiv in 2022.

Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz talk inside a train carriage at an undisclosed location on their way from Poland to Kyiv, Ukraine, 16 June 2022. [EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

However, EURACTIV Italy reports that Draghi himself was excluded on 8 March 2022 from a Zoom call between US President Joe Biden, former British PM Boris Johnson, Scholz and Macron despite having concluded a year before the “Quirinal Treaty” with Paris.

Read more: Italy, France sign ‘Quirinale Treaty’ as Merkel’s exit tests European diplomacy

EU ‘crushed’ between two blocs

According to Francesco Giubilei, president of the Italian conservative think tank Nazione Futura (Future Nation), the Franco-German path of dealing alone with Ukraine weakens the entire European Union.

“The consequences will be negative for everyone, including the French, who have thus fragmented the European line for the umpteenth time. Without Italy, which plays a strategic role in various international scenarios, the EU goes nowhere”, he told EURACTIV Italy.

In the beginning of the war, Macron was criticised for some phone calls he made to Moscow without prior consultations with his EU partners.

“I feel that if everybody is constantly calling him [Vladimir Putin], he doesn’t get the message that he’s isolated. So, if we want to get the message through that actually ‘you are isolated’, don’t call him – there’s no point,” Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told EURACTIV in an interview in May 2022.

Giubilei continued, criticising the EU of being incapable of carving out a strong and autonomous diplomatic role for itself.

“Europe has, therefore, ended up crushed between two blocs, the American and the Russian-Chinese, and is unable to speak with a single voice to make the case for peace”, he noted.

For his part, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani (Forza Italia/EPP) tried to calm things down and insisted that Italy “does not feel isolated”.

“We feel we are protagonists in the fight for Ukraine’s independence”, he said, adding that this fight is not against Russian people. The government’s commitment, Tajani said, is to guarantee Ukraine’s independence and allow the armed forces to defend the country.

Together with far-right Lega, Forza Italia is part of Meloni’s coalition government.

Before the elections, Forza Italia was branded as a pro-EU force that needed to be part of the government to guarantee Meloni’s pro-EU path.

Since she took over the power in Italy, Meloni has been in search of EU allies.

Recently there was an attempt to start a debate over joining forces with the European People’s Party, but it was immediately ruled out by centre-right parties in Berlin.

German centre-right blows off Weber-Meloni EU plans

*Updated with comments from the delegation of Fratelli d’Italia in the ECR group.
A potential alliance between the rightist European Conservatives and Reformists Group ECR and the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is off the table for the German conservatives, a senior …

(Federica Pascale | EURACTIV Italy – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)