Following some time of barring them, Italy recently allowed three NGO vessels to rescue migrants coming from Libya.
The Ocean Viking would be welcomed by France, it was also stated.
However, indications indicate such a deal was not actually approved by French authorities.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini applauded the news that France has decided to accept the Ocean Viking, rejoicing that “the air has changed.”
Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary’s far-right party, hailed Ms. Meloni for “safeguarding Europe’s borders.”
The public announcement made by Italy is perceived in Paris as an attempt to pressure the country into accepting the boat.
The Ocean Viking is scheduled to arrive in Toulon on Friday morning, and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that France will allow the ship to dock on an extraordinary basis.
But he denounced Italy’s conduct as abhorrent and self-serving, threatening “very serious consequences” if they continued.
Ms. Meloni expressed her shock at France’s “aggressive reaction” in a media briefing on Friday, calling it unjustifiable.
The remarks came amid an increasingly heated verbal spat between the two European Union members about immigration, a topic on which Italy’s new right-wing government has vowed to impose stricter regulations.
Currently, France has strengthened border controls with Italy and stopped a deal to accept 3,500 refugees who had been transferred from Italy. France has also asked other EU states to follow suit.
The EU isolating Italy would not be “intelligent,” according to Ms. Meloni.
She continued by stating that “the situation cannot continue this way” and that France’s response had demonstrated a lack of European unity.
Italy, Greece, and Spain have maintained that they should not be asked to bear the burden of migration, which has long been a source of contention within the EU.
Both sides of the border dispute have been fueled by domestic politics.
The prime minister of Italy, the first far-right leader of the nation since World War Two, ran on a platform of stopping migrant boats and must win over her support base.
President Emmanuel Macron of France is under criticism from the National Rally of the far-right, whose leader Marine Le Pen has seized the opportunity to capitalise on the situation.
When she accepted the ship, she blasted Emmanuel Macron for showing “dramatic laxity” and criticising his inability to halt “massive and anarchic immigration.”
Whatever the reason, the end effect is that France and Italy are currently experiencing their biggest diplomatic crisis since 2019, when the French government withdrew its ambassador to Rome after the Italian deputy prime minister visited the French gilets jaunes (yellow vest) demonstrators in support.
It is unusual for western EU members to criticise one another so publicly, which is bad news for the new Italian government’s relationships with its longtime friends.