‘Do not weaken’: Italy’s leaders throw support behind France’s ‘yellow vest’ protesters

  • Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Emmanuel Macron’s policies are dangerous, ‘not just for the French, but for Europe’
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 12:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 12:49am

The two leaders of Italy’s ruling coalition on Monday threw their support behind the “yellow vest” protesters roiling the government in neighbouring France.

“Yellow vests, do not weaken!” Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), wrote on his party’s blog.

He denounced the French government for protecting the elite and privileged.

Matteo Salvini, his counterpart from the far-right, anti-immigrant League (formerly known as the Northern League) now serving as Interior Minister, also backed the “yellow vest” protesters.

“I support honest citizens protesting against a president who governs against his people,” Salvini said, while “firmly” condemning recent protest violence.

“Like other governments, the French one thinks mainly about representing the interests of the elites, those who live from privileges, no longer those of the people,” Di Maio wrote. “[French President Emmanuel] Macron’s government is not up to expectations and some policies are de facto dangerous, not just for the French, but for Europe.”

Di Maio said that in Italy they had “inverted this trend” and called on French protesters to do likewise.

The French [government] thinks mainly about representing the interests of the elites ... no longer those of the people
Luigi Di Maio

Around 50,000 “yellow vest” protesters took to the streets again on Saturday in cities around France to denounce Macron’s austerity policies.

While the number of protesters has dwindled since the earliest demonstrations, a smaller but increasingly radical core seem determined to push on.

“Yellow vest” protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in late November, but then mushroomed into a wider revolt in December against the policies and governing style of 41-year-old Macron.

The protests have sometimes become violent, particularly on December 1 when crowds ransacked a museum in the Arc de Triomphe and daubed graffiti on the monument.

The French media has been targeted, while mock executions of Macron have also been a feature of some gatherings.

Italy’s M5S-League coalition in June took over from the Democratic Party.

The ruling coalition has had numerous spats with Macron and the European Commission in Brussels since coming to power, notably over its budget after reversing punishing austerity measures.