Coronavirus. Emmanuel Macron Visits the Salpêtrière before a Franco-Italian Summit

General News
French President Emmanuel Macron (G) and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on September 18, 2019 in Rome.

The president paid a visit to the Paris hospital on Thursday morning, where the first French victim of the coronavirus died the day before.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will post on Thursday 27th February 2020 the agreement found between Paris and Rome during a Franco-Italian summit disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Italian officials have maintained the long-planned meeting, despite the spread of the viral pneumonia epidemic that started in China in December, which is drawing the attention of authorities in Rome and Paris.

Emmanuel Macron first took the time, this Thursday morning, to pay a visit to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris where the first French victim of the coronavirus died the day before. An investigation is also underway to retrace the journey of this 60-year-old teacher who had not travelled to a risk zone.

Read also: Coronavirus: investigation into the first French death and an 18th identified case

A crisis meeting in Matignon

Emmanuel Macron must meet with the staff of Pitié-Salpêtrière and was accompanied by the Minister of Health Olivier Véranthe Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon and the Director-General of the AP-HP Martin Hirsch.

The head of state must “deliver a reassuring message” and “assure the French of the full mobilization of French health services which are among the most efficient in the world,” said the Elysee. He must notably visit the Eole building, inaugurated in September 2019, which deals with respiratory diseases and which could receive patients with coronavirus.

For their part, the leaders of parties represented in Parliament, the presidents of parliamentary groups and the presidents of assemblies are invited Thursday at the end of the morning to Matignon around Edouard Philippe in order to take stock of the situation linked to the epidemic.

The Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, where a patient with the new coronavirus died
The Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, where a patient with the new coronavirus died © AFP / Archives / Boris HORVAT

12 deaths in Italy

Italy, where the number of contaminations has snowballed since Friday, has become the most affected European country with more than 400 cases and 12 deaths, according to the latest report from the authorities.

Less affected, France has identified 17 cases and two deaths including a first French death, announced Wednesday and who had not travelled to risk areas at all.

For Paris, “it is important to be present” alongside the Italians and to “cooperate” in this “difficult context”.

No Franco-Italian summit has been organized since that of Lyon at the end of 2017, an absence which testifies to the period of tensions crossed by relations between the two “Latin sisters” of Europe.

Indeed, for more than a year, Paris and Rome engaged in a war of words, which culminated with the temporary recall of the French ambassador to Italy, the most serious transalpine diplomatic crisis since 1945.

The former Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, boss of the sovereignist party of The League, had taken as a privileged target Emmanuel Macron whose he had castigated “arrogance” and “hypocrisy” in immigration matters.

For his part, Emmanuel Macron had made Matteo Salvini his “main opponent” in Europe and castigated “nationalist leprosy”.

Read also: 6 Nations tournament: Ireland-Italy cancelled due to coronavirus

President Emmanuel Macron on February 20, 2020 in Brussels.
President Emmanuel Macron on February 20, 2020 in Brussels. (© AFP / Archives / kenzo tribouillard)

Peaceful relationships

Relations have gradually calmed down since the advent, in September 2018, of a new coalition tale government between the 5 Star Movement (M5S, anti-establishment) and the Democratic Party (centre left), Matteo Salvini returning to the opposition.

“We can work well with this government,” said one at the Elysee, because “we share many convergences”, especially on European politics.

Thus, Paris and Rome are now “on the same line” on the reception of migrants in the Mediterranean, a case on which the two capitals were head-on.

This “new impulse” of relations will be on the menu for discussions between MM. Macron and Conte, respectively accompanied by 11 and 12 ministers covering all areas, from the economy to defence through culture.

Another subject of friction recently, the Libyan case is now the subject of an “alignment”, according to the Elysee, between Paris and Rome, who are working to revive the naval mission Sophia, now focused on control of the arms embargo on Libya.

Messrs. Macron and Conte should confirm their desire to sign in the coming months the Quirinal Treaty (name of the seat of the Italian presidency), announced in 2017 to give “a more stable and ambitious framework” to Franco-Italian cooperation, along the lines of the Franco-German treaty.

The summit will end with a gala dinner with President Sergio Mattarella.

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