Macron Offers Italian President a State Visit in Jab at Conte

(Bloomberg) -- President Emmanuel Macron asked Italian President Sergio Mattarella for a state visit in the next few months, in a jab at the populist administration that has been sniping at the French leader for months.

France’s ambassador to Italy returned to Rome this week following a diplomatic spat and took with him a written invitation for Mattarella.

While France’s constitution gives its president wide-ranging executive powers, in Italy, the head of state is more of a symbolic position and the prime minister normally handles relations with other leaders. Macron sees Premier Giuseppe Conte, not Mattarella, at European leaders summits for example.

But as relations with the populist coalition have deteriorated, Macron has reached out to Mattarella to shore up relations between the neighbors. The two presidents spoke on the phone earlier this week.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio prompted France to recall its ambassador this month, marking a postwar low in bilateral relations, when he met members of the Yellow Vest protest movement during a visit to France. Di Maio and his fellow deputy premier, Matteo Salvini, have repeatedly attacked Macron as they look to score points with Italian voters ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.

“I’m glad the spat is over,” Salvini, who is also Interior Minister, said in a statement commenting on the return of the French ambassador to Rome. He also said he would renew his request to meet the French interior minister with the goal of working on the return of Italian left-wing convicted terrorists that are currently living in France.

The dispute over the terrorists stems from a decision taken in the 1980s by then French President Francois Mitterand to let Red Brigade members live in France.

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