Hands off Mont Blanc! France told ‘can’t do whatever you want’ amid Italy border row

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The leader of the right-wing Lega party waded into the dispute which erupted when officials in the French region of Haute-Savoie region set up a natural protection zone around the areas of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Houches and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains. The move provoked outrage in Italy which accused its neighbour of trying to seize full control of the area, a favourite holiday destination for Italian skiers and hikers.

Take your hands off Monte Bianco

Matteo Salvini

Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco as the Italians call it, is Western Europe’s highest mountain. It marks the Alpine border between the two countries but has no physical boundary separating the Italian and French parts.

Mr Salvini said the visit to the mountain was to serve as a reminder to the French that they “cannot do whatever they want” in the area.

And in a swipe at Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, a furious Mr Salvini tweeted: “While Di Maio sleeps, Lega goes to the foot of Monte Bianco to reiterate to the French that they cannot do whatever they want!

“Take your hands off Monte Bianco.”

Mr Salvini’s lashed out after fellow nationalist leader Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, accused the French of border violations.

Ms Meloni said: “More than a year ago, Fratelli d’Italia denounced the unacceptable French invasion of the Monte Bianco, to the total indifference of the Italian government.

“France continues to violate our borders.

“We cannot tolerate yet another attack on Italy: we will do everything we can to defend Italian borders.”

The Italian government said it had voiced its “strong disappointment” to France yesterday for what described as interference on Italian territory on Mont Blanc.

Mr Di Maio said he had ordered the Italian embassy in Paris to issue a formal complaint to the French government.

He said: “Such unilateral measures, which cannot and must not impact Italian territory, are not recognised by Italy.”

The natural protection zone features measures including bans on any type of vehicle and on taking pets to the area as well as tough rules to protect plants and wildlife.

The popular Alpine region is a hotspot for tourists with the Mont Blanc providing a vital source of income for businesses in France and Italy.

Foreign visitors often stay in the three townships that surround the mountain, including Courmayeur in Italy and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Chamonix in France.

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Leading Italian cartographers Laura and Giorgio Aliprandi said the summit of Mont Blanc should be shared between France and Italy.

They agreed with French experts Sylvain Jouty and Hubert Oudier who, in 1999, said: “The border must logically be on the summit”.

In a newsletter of the Italian Alpine Club in 2015, the Aliprandis said: “Based on these considerations, we can conclude that the summit of Mont Blanc is joint Italian-French and should be marked as such on official French maps.

“It’s a position that deserves full support since, as we have seen, even in France it enjoys the full support of the most-enlightened minds.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)

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