Italy’s Meloni slams ‘inappropriate’ French-German dinner with Zelensky

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said a late-night dinner meeting in Paris between Macron, Scholz and Ukraine’s leader was 'inappropriate'.

Italy's Meloni slams 'inappropriate' French-German dinner with Zelensky
French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola at an EU summit on Thursday, February 9th. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Friday again criticised France’s decision to invite Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to Paris earlier in the week, where she said other European
leaders were “missing”.

“Had I been invited to the Elysee Palace for the meeting with Zelensky, I would have advised (them) not to hold this meeting,” Meloni told journalists at a press conference following the EU summit in Brussels.

“Because when it comes to Ukraine, what interests us above everything else is to give a message of unity” within the European Union, said Meloni.

On Thursday, the Italian premier criticised as “inappropriate” French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to Zelensky to meet in Paris ahead of the EU summit in Brussels, which wrapped up Friday.

“In Paris, there were two European presidents, there were 25 missing,” said Meloni on Friday.

READ ALSO: Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Zelensky visited Britain and France on Wednesday and in Paris had a late dinner with Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Zelensky then headed with Macron to Brussels, where he greeted the European Parliament on Thursday.

Meloni and Zelensky were pictured shaking hands and embracing on Thursday as leaders gathered for the summit photo at the European Council meeting in Brussels.

It was the first time Meloni, who was sworn in as Italy’s first woman premier in October, and Zelensky have met face-to-face.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at a European leaders summit in Brussels on February 9th. (Photo by JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP)

Meloni and Zelensky were set to have bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday, although Italian media reported that the bilaterals had been scrapped due to time contraints.

According to Italian media, Meloni did not appreciate being excluded.

Asked about Meloni’s comments, Macron declined to comment specifically, but told journalists that “I wanted to receive him, President Zelensky, with Chancellor Scholz” due to Germany and France’s “particular role” in the Ukraine situation, as partners in the Minsk accords.

He added that it was up to Zelensky himself to choose his schedule.

“What matters is that we are effective together and that we have a strategy that finds a way to a durable peace,” Macron said.

Meloni’s hard-right government clashed with Paris late last year over Rome’s refusal to take in a migrant charity rescue ship, which instead went to a French port.

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Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

Italy's government on Tuesday approved a bill banning the use of synthetic foods, including artificial meat, which it says threatens the country's agri-food heritage.

Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

“Laboratory products in our opinion do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of our culture, our tradition,” said Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, at a press conference on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

Meloni’s nationalist administration has pledged to protect Italy’s food businesses from technological innovations seen as harmful, and renamed the agriculture ministry the “ministry for agriculture and food sovereignty”.

Health Minister Orazio Schillac admitted there was “no scientific evidence of possible harmful effects linked to the consumption of synthetic foods” but said the move to ban them was “based on the precautionary principle”.

Meat substitutes have long been produced, with varying degrees of success, from vegetable sources like soya, peas or beans.

The new legislation specifically targets synthetic products being developed in laboratories from animal cells, which aim to ‘grow’ meat without killing the donor animal.

Italy’s goverment says synthetic meat products theaten its national food traditions. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
A 3D-printer at a food expo in Barcelona, Spain, creates plant-based proteins which mimic the texture of beef. Italy has moved to ban the production of such foods. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

If the proposal is passed by parliament, penalties for violations would include fines of up to 60,000 euros ($64,000).

Agriculture lobby Coldiretti praised the move, saying a ban was needed to safeguard domestic production “from the attacks of multinational companies”.

“Italy, which is a European leader in food quality and safety, has a duty to be at the forefront of food policies to defend citizens and businesses,” Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why claims Italian cuisine is a ‘modern invention’ have angered Italy

But critics said the move was part of the government’s focus on identity politics and would leave Italian businesses trailing behind rivals in other European countries.

“A new day, a new enemy, a new crime,” said Giordano Masini of the left-wing More Europe party.

“Instead of welcoming a potential new development opportunity, which could bring new businesses and more jobs, the government rushes to ban it, imagining health risks that no one has ever shown.”

“In the end, foods obtained via cell culture will arrive anyway, as it is the EFSA that evaluates the health risks of food products [in Europe] not the Italian government, and the European Union will allow them onto the single market. 

“So producers in other countries who, in the meantime, can do research and development will be the ones to benefit.”

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The ban was also crtiticised by organisations supporting the development of cell-based food products across Europe, as well as animal rights groups.

“The passing of such a law would shut down the economic potential of this nascent field in Italy, holding back scientific progress and climate mitigation efforts,” Alice Ravenscroft, head of policy at the Good Food Institute Europe, told Reuters.

In order to come into force, the bill will have to be adopted within two months by parliament, which may amend it during debates.

Currently no marketing applications for such foods have been made in the EU, and it is likely to be at least 2025 before such foods appear on shelves in Europe.

The ban on lab-grown meat was not the only rule proposed by Meloni’s administration aimed at preventing unconventional foods from being served on Italian tables.

The government was also reportedly preparing decrees to introduce information labels on products containing or derived from insects amid concerns about the use of cricket flour.

Italy’s government also said last week it planned to launch a bid to have “Italian cuisine” included on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, though it was not immediately clear which dishes it would include.