Paris — France’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Italy may be the biggest diplomatic fracas between the neighbours since Benito Mussolini declared war on France in 1940, but the trans-Alpine stand-off has its roots in more recent events. On August 28 last year in Milan, Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met to discuss strategy ahead of this May’s European Parliament elections, promising to pursue an anti-immigration agenda. “Macron is the leader of the pro-migration parties in Europe today,” Orbán , a constant thorn in the EU’s side on immigration, declared after their talks. “And here we are, the ones who want to stop illegal immigration.” It was a provocation that the French president, then barely a year into office on an avowedly pro-EU platform, could not ignore. He was on a tour of Nordic states at the time, and responded at a news conference the next day. “It is clear that a strong opposition is building up between na...

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