The bitter war of words that has taken place the best part of this past year between France and Italy culminated in the French government taking the extraordinary step of withdrawing its ambassador to Rome in February.
On one level, this drôle de guerre is between two governments which hold dramatically different views of the European Union. In other words, it is a war between the Europhile liberal-elitist French government and the Euroskeptic populist Italian government.
It encapsulates the existential struggle at the heart of Europe between two competing visions that will dominate the forthcoming European Parliament elections in May: that of Europe’s imperialisti and their standard-bearer, French President Emmanuel Macron, who want ever closer union; and that of its sovranisti, championed by Italy’s populists, who want a return to a Europe des Patries, as General Charles de Gaulle defined what the E.U. should be. According to this view, it is not a war between the French and the Italians as peoples but only between their governments.
But the European Union, regardless of Brexit, is in crisis precisely because it is made up of peoples—peoples who do not even speak the same language. The only thing they have in common is not even democracy but Christianity. Yet the E.U. refused to incorporate such old-fashioned and irrelevant...