Comments on migration by the French interior minister have triggered a diplomatic spat with Italy.
In an interview on Thursday, Gérald Darmanin said Italian PM Georgia Meloni was “unable to solve the migration problems on which she was elected”.
Italy’s foreign minister called the remarks “unacceptable” and pulled out of a scheduled trip to Paris.
In a bid to defuse the row, the French foreign ministry said it wished to work with Italy on common challenges.
This year Italy has seen a dramatic rise in arrivals by sea from Tunisia, where authorities have launched a campaign against undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of the 42,000 people arriving from North Africa this year have come from Tunisia, prompting Italy to declare a state of emergency.
The sharp rise in numbers came as a setback to Ms Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party which won elections last year promising to crack down on irregular immigration.
The French interior minister, speaking on RMC radio, said the Italian government was “incapable of dealing with migration pressures” and he blamed Rome for a recent influx of migrants, notably children, entering the south of France.
Ms Meloni had run for office on a tough “just-watch-me” stance, he said: “And what you see, is that it [immigration] continues and intensifies.”
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani hit back, tweeting that Gérald Darmanin’s “insults to the government and Italy” were unacceptable. “This is not the spirit in which common European challenges should be addressed,” he said.
Mr Tajani cancelled a visit to Paris, where he was due to meet his French opposite number Catherine Colonna on Thursday evening.
The French foreign ministry has since sought to ease tensions. “The French government wishes to work with Italy to meet the common challenge of rapidly rising migrant flows,” it said in a statement.
This is not the first time Italy’s right-wing government has had a run-in with its French neighbours since it came to power last October.
Within weeks, ministers in Rome had refused to allow an NGO rescue boat carrying more than 230 migrants to dock, prompting France to allow the ship into port.
But the Macron government is also facing criticism of its handling of migration over the Italian Alps, and the latest row was triggered by domestic political pressure.
At the end of April Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne beefed up police numbers close to France’s south-east border.
Visiting the area this week, the leader of the far-right National Rally party said the government’s response had been lax and powerless.
During his interview on French radio, Mr Darmanin pointed out that Giorgia Meloni’s “extreme-right government” had been chosen by friends of Mr Bardella’s National Rally colleague, Marine Le Pen.
Source : BBC