Macron and Meloni Make Up in Paris to Seek End to Tensions

Giorgia Meloni and Emmanuel Macron sought to move past months of tensions at a meeting in Paris and show that they can work together.

(Bloomberg) — Giorgia Meloni and Emmanuel Macron sought to move past months of tensions at a meeting in Paris and show that they can work together.

The Italian prime minister’s first steps inside the Elysee Palace on Tuesday at the invitation of France’s president were the culmination of months of diplomatic efforts to settle the rocky relations between Italy and France since she took office at the end of last year.

“Italy and France are close, key players and they have a central role in the EU,” Meloni said alongside her French counterpart. Smiling and relaxed, both hinted at convergence on themes including migration, the European Union and support for Ukraine. Macron put his arm around Meloni’s back as they headed for private talks.

The meeting with Macron, which lasted almost two hours and was months in the making, helped bring the leaders closer, according to a French official who was briefed on their conversation.

France and Italy, the second- and third-biggest economies in the euro area, have plenty of issues in common, but their governments have often been at odds since Meloni came to power.

There has been no shortage of examples. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin recently said Meloni is “incapable of fixing Italy’s migration problems,” while Meloni criticized Macron in February over a dinner he hosted with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, saying it was inappropriate that she wasn’t invited.

A general lack of personal chemistry between Meloni and Macron on previous encounters, including on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit in Japan, added to the tone.

The Paris meeting had been delayed for months. French officials said the difficulty in setting a date reflected Meloni’s hesitation. Macron has been open to having a good relationship since the start but this wasn’t reciprocated, they said.

The situation contrasted sharply with the French president’s connection with previous Italian leader Mario Draghi, for whom he had personal admiration and with whom he signed a friendship treaty known as the Quirinal.

Expectations for Tuesday’s meeting were high, with topics also including economic cooperation.

Telecom Deal

Italy and France jointly developed the SAMP/T air defense system, known as MAMBA, that is being deployed in Ukraine. Meloni and Macron said on Tuesday it’s now operational.

The future of former monopoly Telecom Italia SpA, in which the government has been taking an active role due to the company’s financial strains, is one of the most closely watched issues for investors. France’s Vivendi SE is its biggest shareholder and has been questioning a deal to sell its landline network in order to reduce debt, asking for a higher price. This has been a source of tension between Rome and the French company.

Speaking after the meeting, Meloni said the issue was not discussed.

“We mostly focused on geopolitics, but we might approach the issue in the future,” she said.

(Updates with details of meeting starting in fourth paragraph.)

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