Italexit ramp? Why Giorgia Meloni is not a real threat to European unity

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Analysis

ROME — Giorgia Meloni has undoubtedly won the trust of the Italians. But now she will have to work to earn the trust of the rest of the world, especially the world to which Italy belongs: the West and Europe.

Italy cannot afford political isolation, economic self-sufficiency or cultural marginalization.

“Italy first” does not represent national interests. Not for an Atlantic, European and Mediterranean middle power that belongs to organizations scattered around the world – a dense web of interdependencies and ties on which our security and well-being depend.

New leaders often benefit from a trial period on the international scene. Not so for Meloni, who will rise to the prime minister’s seat with the Russian-Ukrainian war at the center of Europe and a pressing energy emergency.


Foreign and European policy will be the de facto litmus test of his new government – and a test of coalition cohesion and the leadership of the future prime minister. In the interests of the continuity of the North Atlantic alliance, continued support for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia must be maintained.

The Russian-Ukrainian war as a litmus test

From the opposition, Giorgia Meloni has always voted in favor of these government measures, in particular the sending of arms to Kyiv. It will most likely follow the same line as since the government alliance.

The discord may come from the two allies, Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini, stubbornly soft on Vladimir Putin for various reasons. Meloni can and should uphold the line.

She can do it because Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party came out of Sunday’s vote and the nostalgic Silvio Berlusconi Putinism is not shared by the rest of his party, Forza Italia.

And it must do so because Italy’s good relations with the United States, which it cherishes, depend on Ukraine. On this issue, Washington sees no party line. There is a war, with a nuclear threat. Italy is a member of NATO, a cornerstone of the security of Europe and of Italy too. U-turns or neutrality belong to an ancient geological era.

No more eurosceptic fantasies

Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Maurizio Lupi and Giorgia Meloni attend the last meeting of their electoral campaign in Rome.

Mario Cartelli/Zuma

Concerns about the new Italian government are no secret in Brussels.

But it is better to wait for the actions, the formation, the program and especially the behavior of the new government and not to forget that the success of Meloni is the fruit of democracy. These are the clever words of Emmanuel Macron, who spoke of respecting the “democratic choice” of the Italian people.

She gave up the fantasy of leaving the euro or the EU.

The EU and other leaders must not let Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban have a monopoly on congratulations or they will push her into his arms. Meloni said she wanted to distance herself from him.

She gave up the fantasies of leaving the euro or the EU, which the Italians do not want. Instead, she wants to “reform” the Union, in the sense of transferring more sovereignty to member states. This turns European politics into a litmus test for the new government.

too big to fail

It is inevitable that it seeks the discontinuity of the interim government of Mario Draghi, around three main points.

First, it will not want to undermine the national interest when it comes to the national recovery plan (PNRR). Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, drafted the PNRR and almost 200 billion euros of EU recovery funds have already been approved by the Italian parliament and the EU. Two in three Italians credit Draghi with bringing Italy’s first economic recovery in a long time, thanks in part to the PNRR and the reforms it sparked.

Second, Italy’s two most important European partners remain Germany and France. Common sense, not politics, makes the relationship with Paris and Berlin a constant in Italy’s position in Europe.

Finally, on fiscal discipline – which is a more sensitive issue for Meloni than her two allies – she may enter the warpath with Brussels, but the markets are not forgiving – just look at what is happening United Kingdom.

A pragmatic and non-ideological approach to European politics allows Meloni to present himself in Brussels as a leader with whom the EU can work constructively. Brussels must be able to reciprocate without being limited.

Building a positive relationship is of mutual interest: Italy needs the EU but it is also the Union’s third country – “too big to fail” and to be marginalized. We will soon know if Meloni and other European leaders can work together. Let’s hope so.

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