President Macron meets Italy's Meloni to talk about migration

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
Europe  Filippo Attili/Palazzo Chigi Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
© Filippo Attili/Palazzo Chigi Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met on Thursday to discuss "opportunities for cooperation" in migration, industry and space, according to a statement from the French presidency.

The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, also talked about the need to continue to work for European sovereignty in industrial policy and decarbonisation.

They reaffirmed "their determination to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and welcomed the agreement reached to provide the Ukrainians with the ammunition and missiles they need thanks to European industry," the statement said.

The French and Italian leaders were meeting for the second time since Meloni took office last October as the head of Italy's most right-wing government in decades.

Migration policy has been a sticking point between the two countries since a November 2022 incident that saw Meloni refuse to allow a humanitarian ship carrying 230 migrants make landfall in Italy.

The ship was allowed to dock in France, but Paris denounced Rome's "unacceptable" behaviour and suspended plans to receive 3,500 migrants from Italy.

Troubled transalpine relations

At the time, Meloni denounced France's reaction as "aggressive" and "unjustified".

In February, she slammed Emmanuel Macron's invitation to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Paris on the eve of a European summit as "inappropriate".

Macron went on to welcome Zelensky to the Elysée Palace along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with Italian media reporting that Meloni had been upset that she was not invited.

At their summit on Monday, European leaders approved the allocation of two billion euros to finance joint purchases of artillery ammunition that Ukraine desperately needs to counter the Russian offensive.

France and Italy will deliver a medium-range ground-to-air defence system to Ukraine to help it cope with Russian drone, missile and aircraft attacks.