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6 Feb, 2019 13:08

‘Winds of change crossed the Alps’: Italy’s deputy PM meets Yellow Vest 'leaders'

‘Winds of change crossed the Alps’: Italy’s deputy PM meets Yellow Vest 'leaders'

Italy’s deputy prime minister met with leaders of France’s Yellow Vests, extending a helping hand and giving more oxygen to a simmering feud between embattled Macron and the government in Rome.

Luigi di Maio, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, had a sit-down with two of the Yellow Vest leaders, Cristophe Chalencon and Ingrid Levavasseur. “The wind of change has crossed the Alps!” he proclaimed on Twitter, uploading a photo of himself with the two.

The Yellow Vest leaders appeared to have swapped their distinctive high-visibility jackets for more casual fatigues, but it apparently didn’t make the conversation any less meaningful. “We have a lot of common positions and values, such as the defense of citizens, social rights, direct democracy, and environment," the 5-Star Movement said.

If Di Maio’s meeting with the yellow-clad upstarts was intended to provoke French authorities, then all went according to plan. France’s Foreign ministry responded in a furor on Wednesday, calling the meeting an “unacceptable provocation” that threatens to “undermine” the countries’ “bilateral relations.”

While di Maio’s demarche predictably met with little praise in Paris, he is not the first top official to publicly render support to the grassroots movement. Matteo Salvini, another Deputy Prime Minister who also leads the Lega Nord party, once said he supports “honest citizens who protest against a governing president [who stands] against his people.”

In another jibe, Salvini, who rarely minces his words, said the French “will be able to free themselves from a terrible president" on May 26, when the European Parliament elections take place.

Also on rt.com ‘President against his people’: Salvini openly backs Yellow Vest protesters, lashing out at Macron

Interestingly, Chalencon and Levavasseur are on the list of prominent Yellow Vests that are hoping to run in 2019 European elections, according to French media. “We want to create a list that resembles the citizens and shows that we are independent, non-partisan from the first day,” campaign manager Hayk Shahinyan told BFMTV.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron’s situation at home is precarious as the nationwide Yellow Vest protests entered the 12th consecutive week. Protests that began as a response to a fuel tax hike evolved into a broad rejection of his neoliberal economic policies.

READ MORE: Going nationwide: 2/3 of French back anti-govt Yellow Vests protests, poll shows

Macron, who was dubbed ‘the president of the rich’, tried to quell the riots by introducing higher minimum wages and promising to halt the fuel tax rise at the end of 2018. However, the measures seemed to take little effect as the rallies resumed this year. 

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