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Italy's 5-Star tells France's Macron movement is no threat to EU

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Italy's 5-Star tells France's Macron movement is no threat to EU

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ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement told French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday that it does not represent a threat to the European Union, and sought to shrug off the label “populist”. Leader Luigi Di Maio, whose party tops polls ahead of a national election due early next year, wrote an open letter to Macron after the French leader reportedly expressed concern about anti-system forces in Italy. “I am sure that when we get to know each other better, you will realise that our movement is not only not a threat, but is cultivating the best solutions for many of Europe’s problems,” Di Maio said in the letter published on the 5-Star movement’s blog. Italian media reported this week that Macron had told former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi he was worried about the rise of 5-Star and the Northern League, which is close to France’s National Front. Allied to Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party in the European Parliament, 5-Star is trying to distance itself from anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic parties in the rest of the bloc. Di Maio, a sober 31 year-old who has taken over leadership of the movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, said 5-Star shared with Macron the desire to “rebuild” Europe. “They lazily call us populist without knowing what this means, when in reality we are … close to the people, who want pay-back and a role in changing our country,” he said. Di Maio made no mention of a referendum on Italy’s use of the euro which 5-Star originally pledged when it burst onto the political scene in 2013, but has since backed away from. Regarding EU budget rules, Di Maio said that 5-Star’s point of view was “very close” to that of France, which he said had let its budget deficit rise to accommodate spending on welfare and other investments. In January, 5-Star’s European parliamentarians tried and failed to split from UKIP, which successfully campaigned for Britain to leave the EU. 5-Star eventually gave up a leading role in the group.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Catherine Evans)
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