French President Emmanuel Macron and new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni held talks in Rome on Sunday in the first, though informal, meeting between the two political leaders. Mr Macron, who’s currently on an official visit to Italy, in a post on Twitter in Italian after the meeting, said the two countries had to continue to work together, “with dialogue and ambition”.
The French leader and the newly appointed Italian Prime Minister discussed current European issues including the need to provide quick and common answers to increased energy prices, support for Ukraine and the management of migrant flows, Giorgia Meloni’s office said in a statement.
The two leaders met last night at the Gran Meliá hotel in Rome for an informal meeting of more than an hour which was not in the French President’s agenda.
According to the note released by the Italian government, the two leaders discussed energy, Ukraine but also migratory flows and agreed to collaborate “in respect of respective national interests”.
“Relations between Italy and France are more important than people,” Emmanuel Macron told AGI news agency after the meeting.
Personal relations between the French President and Ms Meloni have so far been turbulent.
The new Italian leader has often attacked Mr Macron on many subjects ranging from the management of migratory flows, to the extradition of Italian brigadists, to the acquisitions of Italian industrial flagships by French companies, to disputes borders on the summit of Mont-Blanc.
Speaking at a pre-election rally, Ms Meloni said: “Disgusting is France that continues to exploit Africa by printing money to 14 African countries, charging them mint fees, and by children labour in the mines and by extracting raw material, as is happening in Niger.
“Where Frances extracts 30 percent of the uranium it needs to run its nuclear reactors, while 90 percent of Niger’s population lives without electricity.
“Do not come to teach us lessons, Macron, the Africans are abandoning their continent because of you.
“The solution is not to transfer Africans to Europe, but liberate Africa from some Europeans.
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“We will not accept lessons from you, is that clear?”
Relations with the outgoing Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, were on the contrary excellent.
It is no coincidence that, in a thread of tweets about the meeting, President Macron first posted a photo with Mario Draghi to say “grazie” to him, and only then, in the reply to this first tweet, he published a photo with Ms Meloni practically in the dark.
To a journalist who asked him, during a press conference in Prague at the beginning of the month, if he was ready to work with Ms Meloni, President Macron had replied by first recalling “the happiness of each day that [he had] to collaborate with [his] friend Mario Draghi”.
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Ms Meloni, Italy’s first woman prime minister, formally took over from Mario Draghi as head of government earlier on Sunday after she and her new cabinet team were officially sworn in on Saturday in Rome, giving the country its most right-wing government since World War Two.
She sought to project a moderate image during the election campaign as she faced allegations from political opponents of leading a party with fascism in its past. Ms Meloni dropped previous anti-EU rhetoric and pledged to keep Italy at the heart of European and Western institutions.
European Commission leaders in Brussels sent her messages of congratulations on Saturday.
Mr Macron, who on Sunday attended a conference in Rome aimed at seeking ways to promote world peace, will meet Pope Francis on Monday.