Meloni Sets Foot in the Elysee to Settle Tensions With France

Giorgia Meloni and Emmanuel Macron are finally ready to make peace.

(Bloomberg) — Giorgia Meloni and Emmanuel Macron are finally ready to make peace.

The Italian prime minister’s first steps inside the Elysee Palace on Tuesday at the invitation of France’s president are 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 in a statement alongside her French counterpart ahead of talks, hinting at convergence on migration, defense and European Union reforms. “They need to talk and be close now, as much as ever.”

The meeting with Macron was months in the making, but officially confirmed only one day before. It comes in a busy week for the French president, who is hosting global leaders as part of an ambitious plan to overhaul the global lending architecture.

France and Italy, the second- and third-biggest economies in the euro area, have plenty of issues in common, but their governments have indulged in traditional rivalry in which their leaders have personally played a role.

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, has 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 contrasts 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. 

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, which ranges from migration to Europe’s relationship with China to corporate deals, is as heavy as the expectations surrounding the encounter. Corporate dossiers are among the core issues.

Telecom Deal

Italy and France jointly developed the SAMP/T air defense system, also 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.

While Macron is seeking a good working relationship with Meloni, there are inherent limits due to political and ideological differences, the French officials added. Still, issues such as migration can only be solved with bilateral cooperation, they said, adding that maintaining warm ties with Italian President Sergio Mattarella has helped.

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