ROME (Reuters) – Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani saw his French counterpart in Rome on Thursday, looking to patch up ties weeks after he cancelled a meeting following blunt criticism from Paris over Rome’s migration policy.
Tajani and Catherine Colonna kissed each other on the cheek and exchanged warm words, both seemingly eager to put the recent inter-governmental row behind them.
“Sometimes we may have had different positions, but it is important to have a constructive dialogue between us to enhance the many common interests,” Tajani said in a statement.
Taking to Twitter, Colonna referred to “dear Antonio Tajani”, adding: “Franco-Italian cooperation is essential to move forward.”
Earlier this month, Tajani cancelled a meeting with Colonna in Paris at the last moment and demanded an apology from Paris, saying the French interior minister had offended Italy and its Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with unacceptable “insults”.
The French minister, Gerald Darmanin, who is very close to President Emmanuel Macron, said Meloni was “unable to solve the migration problems on which she was elected” and accused her of “lying” to voters that she could end the crisis.
Meloni and Macron saw each other on the sidelines of a Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan last week, opening the way for the ministerial meeting in Rome on Thursday, Tajani said.
“Italy is the country most exposed to the growing migratory pressure in the Mediterranean,” Tajani said, referring to a surge in migrant crossings from North Africa to Italy this year.
He added that it was imperative to find “a better balance between solidarity and fair sharing of responsibilities” between EU states – a reference to long-held criticism from Italy that other EU states do too little to help it cope with the influx.
Immigration is a hot-button topic between France and Italy, whose world vision was similar when Mario Draghi was Italian prime minister, but has diverged since Meloni took office in October at the head of a nationalist, conservative government.
The French interior minister this month compared Meloni to far-right French leader Marine Le Pen, a political foe of Macron.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Mark Heinrich)