Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded an apology from French President Emmanuel Macron for his comments on Italy’s decision to reject access to a migrant ship and then reprimanded states for allowing associations, such as left-wing financier George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, to dictate its immigration policies.
“Our actions don’t deserve to be described in such terms by figures in the French government who I hope will apologize,” Salvini said to the Senate in Rome, according to Bloomberg.
The diplomatic spat surrounding a boat carrying more than 600 migrants began after Salvini, also leader of the anti-migrant League party, refused to allow it to dock in Italy on June 10. (RELATED: Italy’s New Interior Minister Demands Boat Carrying Migrants To Turn Around)
The migrant vessel was stranded in the Mediterranean between Italy and Malta until Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Monday that the ship was welcome to dock at a Spanish port in Valencia.
Italy’s refusal to accept the stranded boat has upset several European leaders, especially Macron.
“There’s a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government’s behavior with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation,” Macron told his cabinet on Tuesday.
Salvini doubled down on his defense in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, saying he will not alter his position, despite pressure from several other European countries to do so.
“Ships belonging to foreign organizations and flying foreign flags cannot dictate Italy’s immigration policy,” he said.
Salvini then deflected his comments toward other states, reprimanding them for allowing private associations, namely that of liberal billionaire George Soros, to dictate their immigration policies rather than their own governments.
“And then, you’d need to see where certain funding comes from, because when I read that behind some associations there is the Open Society of Soros I start to doubt how spontaneous this generosity is,” Salvini said.
Turning the tables back on Macron, Salvini urged him to take in the migrants he promised he would over the past three years.
“France tells us we are cynical, but from Jan. 1 to May 31 it has pushed back across the borders 10,249 people, including women and handicapped children,” Salvini snapped back.
The French National Assembly passed a controversial immigration policy in April that pledged to tighten immigration laws.
Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned French diplomat Claire Raulin on Wednesday over Macron’s comments. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was set to meet Macron in Paris on Friday, but has threatened to cancel the trip if Macron does not apologize.
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