ROME — An Italian government leader says his populist movement is ready to help anti-government protesters in France.

Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said his 5-Star Movement shares a quest for "direct democracy in Europe" with the French protesters.

A 5-Star senator, Ettore Licheri, said on Wednesday that Di Maio is trying to line up "potential allies," including populists in France, Poland, Croatia and Sweden, ahead of European Parliament elections in May,

The French protests started in November to oppose fuel tax increases, but morphed into a rejection of government economic policies.

Di Maio blogged Monday that a "new Europe is being born" as citizens demand a law-making role. He said the 5-Stars and France's yellow vest movement "can fight together" for that goal, but denounced the type of protest violence seen in Paris.