Macron Can't Resist Opportunity to Tell Italians How to Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron assured Italians he had no intention of interfering in their general election in six weeks’ time. Then he launched into a lengthy tribute to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Macron met with Gentiloni in Rome Thursday as he seeks to build support for greater integration among European Union states. Gentiloni’s Democratic Party is set to lose control of parliament in March, according to opinion polls.
“Europe has been very lucky to have Paolo Gentiloni,” Macron said, standing alongside his Italian counterpart at a press conference. “I hope that we can continue the work that we have started.”
“I want to say what a joy it was to work with Paolo these past months... His work has led to a new dynamic in Italy and in Europe.”
Italians vote on March 4 in an election pitting mainstream parties against populists and euro-skeptics. Gentiloni won’t even be his party’s candidate for prime minister -- that’s Matteo Renzi -- but with polls signaling a possible deadlock in the legislature he could be appointed again to lead a caretaker government or a grand coalition with the center-right Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.
“As you can imagine, we didn’t talk about internal politics,” Gentiloni said. “But certainly, we all hope that our countries will be in a strong position to support the European project.”
The French leader is trying to build alliances with his EU colleagues to kickstart a new wave of EU integration as soon as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has nailed down a coalition deal for her fourth term.
Macron wants to complete the euro-area banking union, increase the potential for public investment in the bloc and coordinate more tightly on economic, defense and foreign policy to make the continent more resilient to financial shocks and better able to stand up to economic heavyweights like the U.S. and China.
Earlier Thursday, Macron met at the Quirinale Palace with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who will have the job of overseeing coalition talks after the election.
Macron and Gentiloni said that they’ve asked aides to work on a new treaty that would be a framework for their bilateral relations, modeled on the 1963 Elysee Treaty between France and Germany.
Gentiloni said the treaty would give relations “a more stable, more ambitious framework.” he added: “We don’t need a treaty to cooperate because we cooperate so much, but we believe it would make it more systematic, much stronger.”