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HomeNewsGiorgia Meloni, Taking Power in Italy, Promises a Pro-Western Course

Giorgia Meloni, Taking Power in Italy, Promises a Pro-Western Course


ROME—Giorgia Meloni was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister on Saturday, assuming power at the helm of a right-wing coalition beset by internal squabbles over Rome’s position toward Moscow.

A staunch Atlanticist, Ms. Meloni has said her government will be steadfast in its support for Ukraine and in its opposition to Russia’s war on the country.

But cracks in her right-wing alliance began to appear even before her government was sworn in, when former premier Silvio Berlusconi, a junior coalition member, was recorded defending Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In response, Ms. Meloni said adherence to a pro-Western foreign policy was a requirement for belonging to her government.

Ms. Meloni, whose party won the biggest share of the vote in last month’s parliamentary elections, succeeds Mario Draghi as Italy’s head of government and becomes the country’s first female prime minister.

As prime minister, she will have to tackle the urgent issue of high energy prices as winter sets in and households and businesses struggle with high heating bills. Another big challenge will be managing her unruly coalition allies, some of whom have blamed sanctions on Russia for Italy’s energy-price woes.

Giorgia Meloni has tried to shake off her far-right image.


alberto pizzoli/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The 45-year-old Roman has sought to reposition herself as a mainstream conservative, playing down her far-right populist roots. Her Brothers of Italy party descends from a movement founded by former fascists after World War II, and its supporters and members include some admirers of Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Ms. Meloni has denounced fascism and toned down her criticism of the European Union. She maintains a hard-line position on identity issues such as immigration and gay rights.

In recent months, she has worked hard to reassure Italy’s European allies and financial markets that her government won’t be a destabilizing force in the bloc. She has embraced pro-business economic policies such as lower taxes but also vowed to keep Italy’s massive public debt in check. Her government is expected to work closely with the EU to tackle the energy crisis, confront Russia and secure continued funding from the bloc.

Mr. Putin has slashed Russia’s natural-gas deliveries to the EU, hoping that economic pain will fuel public discontent and pressure European leaders to reduce their support for Kyiv and lift sanctions on Moscow.

Silvio Berlusconi, a junior member of Ms. Meloni’s alliance, was recently recorded speaking in defense of Vladimir Putin.



The cost-of-living crisis has led to protests and strikes in countries including France and Germany. Support for sanctions among Europeans has slipped since the start of the war, although sympathy for Ukraine’s plight remains widespread across the continent.

A strongly anti-Russian government led by Ms. Meloni could pressure other European countries to stay the course. But comments made by her junior coalition partners—Mr. Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigration League party—have raised questions about the government’s cohesion. Some observers doubt it will last the full five-year term.

During the election campaign, Mr. Salvini repeatedly questioned sanctions on Russia. More recently, Mr. Berlusconi spoke in defense of Mr. Putin. During a closed-door meeting with lawmakers of his Forza Italia party, he was surreptitiously recorded saying that the Russian leader’s intention was to replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with a group of “respectable and reasonable people.” The former Italian premier blamed Mr. Zelensky and his Western backers for prolonging the war. His lawmakers applauded.

Mr. Berlusconi has long considered himself a close personal friend of Mr. Putin. In the leaked audio, which was made public earlier this week, he said they recently rekindled their friendship. The Russian leader gave Mr. Berlusconi 20 bottles of vodka for his 86th birthday last month, Mr. Berlusconi sent him bottles of wine in return, and the two exchanged “very sweet letters,” Mr. Berlusconi said.


What might the election of Giorgia Meloni mean for Italy and its support of Ukraine? Join the conversation below.

After the audio was released, Ms. Meloni said that on her watch Italy would remain firmly aligned with its European and Atlantic allies. “Whoever disagrees with this key principle will not be part of the government,” she said.

Mr. Berlusconi and his party colleagues backpedaled on his leaked remarks, reiterating that they remain committed to a pro-Western stance in Europe’s confrontation with Russia. Forza Italia deputy leader Antonio Tajani flew to Brussels to reassure the EU leaders of his party’s position on Russia. On Saturday Mr. Tajani was sworn in as Italy’s new foreign minister.

Italy’s new finance minister, meanwhile, is the League’s deputy leader Giancarlo Giorgetti, a moderate conservative seen as a counterbalance within his party to the populist Mr. Salvini.

Securing energy supplies is the most important international challenge for most Italians, surpassing other issues such as immigration, according to a recent poll by the Italian Institute for International Affairs and the University of Siena.

Italy has moved quickly this year to increase gas deliveries from Algeria and other supplies, while cutting the share of Russian gas by more than half compared with before the war. Italy is confident of having enough gas this winter, but industry and households are worried about the high prices of heating and electricity. EU leaders are working on ways to bring down prices.

Write to Margherita Stancati at [email protected]

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