Italy's Di Maio meets French 'yellow vests', hails 'winds of change'

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio attends the new income support scheme known as the "citizens' income" presentation in Rome, Italy, February 4 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

PARIS (Reuters) - Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said he met leaders of France’s “yellow vest” anti-government movement on Tuesday, an encounter likely to further test already strained bilateral relations.

Di Maio, who also leads the populist, anti-establishment 5-Star party, said he had stopped over in France and met “yellow vests” leader Christophe Chalencon and candidates on the grassroots movement’s list for European Parliament elections in May.

“The winds of change have crossed the Alps”, Di Maio said on Twitter. He has previously expressed support for the movement.

The at time violent “yellow vests” protests have been a political thorn in President Emmanuel Macron’s side since November as support among the French electorate for his reform agenda has ebbed.

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.

Writing by Bate Felix; editing by John Stonestreet