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In Rome, a first meeting on the sly between Emmanuel Macron and the new president of the far-right council Giorgia Meloni

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A first meeting kept secret until the last minute. Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni saw each other on the sly, Sunday, October 23, at 8 p.m., in a private suite at the Villa Agrippina Gran Melia hotel, on the heights of Rome. The new head of the Italian government arrived through a back door, accompanied by a small delegation, when Emmanuel Macron was surrounded by around twenty people.

As if there was nothing obvious, this tete-a-tete between the far-right leader and the pro-European liberal lasted a good hour. He stayed away from the cameras and “on the sidelines”, they say at the Elysée, of a conference of the Sant’Egidio community on peace, in which the head of state participated at the end of the afternoon. He had just delivered an ode to peace and Kantian universalism in front of 2,500 people: “Peace is impure”he assured, explaining that it supposes “one step to another”even towards “the enemy”in the context of the war in Ukraine.

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Until the head of the Italian government left the Palazzo Chigi to join him, Emmanuel Macron pretended to ignore, publicly, the invitation made to him. The relatives of Giorgia Meloni had rumored the imminence of an interview, without confirmation from the Elysée, where there were protocol constraints, before an audience with the pope on Monday. The staging of this false suspense had begun several days ago, in Paris, until the swearing in which placed Emmanuel Macron at the foot of the wall. He thus happens to be the first head of state to meet in Rome with the post-fascist leader.

Embarrassment and caution of the Elysée

Sign of embarrassment, the meeting did not give rise to any official photo on the French side. Only a snapshot of the two politicians, face to face in the night, was broadcast by the Twitter account of the President of the Republic. “As Europeans, in neighboring countries, as friendly peoples, with Italy we must continue all the work started”, he commented. Around the Head of State, we evoked a discussion “open and demanding”while waiting to judge Giorgia Meloni “on deeds”. “Relations between Italy and France are more important than those of their leaders”reacted Emmanuel Macron to an Italian press agency.

The prudence of the Elysée contrasts with the satisfaction of Meloni’s entourage, where we are pleased to “ultimately encouraging words from the French”. “It was supposed to be a quick coffee and it turned into a long, cordial conversation with a clear convergence of views on the main European files”, rejoices one of his relatives. A press release from the presidency of the council affirmed, in the process, that the two leaders agreed to agree at European level, in compliance with their “reciprocal national interests”. They discussed the energy crisis, defence, the economic situation, the control of migratory flows and support for Ukraine.

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