France's Macron looks for common ground with Italy on immigration debate

# 16 June 2018 02:49 (UTC +04:00)

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged Italy’s new prime minister to work with France, Germany and Spain on resolving migration issues rather than siding with an anti-immigration “axis” emerging within the European Union, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Smiling and calling each other “my friend”, Macron and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte sought to bury the hatchet in Paris after a diplomatic squabble erupted this week over Rome’s refusal to accept a migrant rescue ship at its ports.

There is concern in Paris over what stance Italy’s anti-establishment government, led by lawyer Conte and with the head of the populist League party as deputy, will take on pan-European issues such as euro zone integration and asylum.

“I hope deeply that France and Italy will work hand-in-hand, together, to propose and contribute European solutions, in particular with partners like Spain and Germany,” Macron said during a news conference with Conte alongside.

The row between Paris and Rome over the fate of the Aquarius, a ship with more than 600 migrants aboard, including women and children, drew in Pope Francis and sewed division across Europe, straining German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fragile coalition.

On Wednesday, Italy had summoned France’s envoy and demanded an apology from Macron, who had said Rome’s move to block the ship from its ports was an act of “cynicism and irresponsibility”. After Italy demanded an apology, Macron said he had not meant to offend “Italy and the Italian people”.