The presidents of France and Germany on Tuesday attended the funeral of former Italian head of state Giorgio Napolitano, at a time of tensions between both countries and Rome over migration.
Emmanuel Macron and Frank-Walter Steinmeier joined Italian and other European dignitaries in paying their respects to the former president, who died on Friday aged 98.
Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, also attended the funeral, and according to diplomatic sources, could hold a private meeting later in the day with Mr Macron, although nothing has been officially announced.
Ms Meloni’s hard-Right government has clashed with both Paris and Berlin in recent months over migration, after a surge in arrivals on Italy’s shores.
After heated rhetoric in both France and Italy over who should take in the migrants, Mr Macron and Ms Meloni have promised to act together.
“We cannot leave the Italians alone,” the French president said in a television interview on Sunday – an offer of help that the Italian prime minister immediately said she “welcomed with great interest”.
Rome’s relations with Berlin are frostier.
Ms Meloni wrote to Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, at the weekend to complain about Berlin’s funding of charity projects that help migrants either at sea or onshore in Italy.
Rome blames the NGO boats that conduct rescue missions in the central Mediterranean – the world’s deadliest sea crossing for migrants – for encouraging arrivals from North Africa.
Mr Napolitano was a former communist who became the first Italian president to serve a second term.
Renowned for his moderation and statesmanship, he was regarded as a guarantor of stability during a time of particular turbulence in Italian politics.
In office from 2006 to 2015, he was president during the premierships of Romano Prodi, Silvio Berlusconi, Mario Monti, Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi.
Representatives from Albania, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Britain and the European Union were also announced among the guest list for the funeral.
Unusually for Italy, Mr Napolitano had asked to have a non-religious ceremony, which was held in the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.