Political tension between the French and Italian governments is rising after the Emmanuel Macron administration expressed concerns over the consolidation of the European shipbuilding sector under Italian leadership and accused Italy of interfering in its affairs following Italian deputy prime ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio publicly expressed their support the Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) movement that has violently demonstrated against Macron’s policies since November.

French European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, called on Italy to “first put their own house in order” before interfering in French domestic affairs, comments that prompted Di Maio to quip, “Maybe (Loiseau) is forgetting that her president, (Emmanuel) Macron), compared us to leprosy when talking about our government,” on his personal Facebook account.

Di Maio’s coalition partner, Salvini, accused both France and Germany of sabotaging the merger of the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri with the French Chantiers de L ’Atlantique, Fincantieri took over the company and the French FTX shipyards in February 2018 in a move that was seen as an attempt to create an an “Airbus of the sea” – a European conglomerate that can lead both the civil shipbuilding sector and compete in the international defence procurement industry.

The European Commission said that it would investigate Fincantieri’s planned acquisition of Chantiers de l’Atlantique after requests from both Paris and Berlin.

According to Reuters, observers in France and Germany worry that the merger could harm competition in shipbuilding, particularly for cruise ships. The argument echoes objections raised by the European Commission over the merger of Alstom with Siemens, which aspires to create “An Airbus” in rail manufacturing.