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  • Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on next to Italy

    Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on next to Italy's Minister of Labour and Industry Luigi Di Maio at the Quirinal palace in Rome, Italy, June 1, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 February 2019

Di Maio has previously expressed support for the movement.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), said on Tuesday he had met with "yellow vest" protesters in France.

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"The wind of change has crossed the Alps," he said on Twitter after meeting French protest leader Christophe Chalencon.

Di Maio and his coalition partner, hard-right League head Matteo Salvini, have thrown their support behind the "yellow vest" protesters roiling neighboring France.

"We have many shared points of view and values which place citizens, social rights, direct democracy and the environment at the center of many battles," Di Maio's office said in a statement.

The M5S leader and Chalencon were joined by "yellow vest" candidates for the European Parliament elections in May, who were invited to a follow-up meeting in Rome "in the following weeks."

In an interview with France Info, Chalencon said "there was no question for us to meet without clarifying the pósition of MS5 with the League." "We would have never met with a party classified as the far-right."

Di Maio has denounced the French government for protecting the elite and the privileged, saying "a new Europe is being born of the "yellow vests," of movements, of direct democracy" ahead of European parliamentary elections in May.

"Yellow vests, do not weaken!" he said last month, offering French protesters the use of the movement's so-called Rousseau platform to improve organization and "draw up an electoral programme."

"Yellow vest" protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in late November, but then mushroomed into a wider revolt during December against the neoliberal policies and arrogant governing style of Macron.

Italy's M5S-League coalition in June became the European Union's first anti-establishment-only government, taking over from the center-left Democratic Party. The ruling coalition has had numerous spats with Macron and with the European Commission in Brussels since coming to power, notably over its big-spending budget to apply populist measures. 

Di Maio and Italy's other deputy premier, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League, have made a series of verbal attacks against Macron in recent weeks, supporting his political opponents and accusing Paris of creating poverty in Africa and doing nothing to bring peace to Libya.

France's foreign ministry summoned Italy's ambassador in January, since then Macron has said the only Italian politician he deals with is Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

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