What’s next for Italy’s foreign policy after Giorgia Meloni’s victory?
Fabrizio Napoli, MA student in Interdisciplinary Research and Studies on Eastern Europe (MIREES) at the University of Bologna, Italy
On September 25, Italy’s parliamentary elections enshrined the victory of the nationalist coalition led by the party Brothers of Italy (FDI). Its leader, Giorgia Meloni, is poised to become the first female premier of the country, but also the most far-right one in decades. By railing against immigration and LGBT+ demands, Ms. Meloni winks at fascist nostalgia, whilst she finds in the EU a perfect scapegoat for public dissatisfaction. Whereas the incumbent PM Mario Draghi managed to restore the country’s credibility abroad and take a tough line on Putin’s Russia, the victory of Ms. Meloni is met with concern in Washington and Brussels.
Being a technocrat with no ties to electoral politics, Mr. Draghi’s efforts to align with Rome’s Western allies went largely unappreciated at home. With a heavy reliance on Russia’s energy and their largest banking groups exposed to Moscow’s retaliation, 52 percent of Italian citizens have been pushing Kyiv to compromise with their invaders – which is the highest percentage recorded in six European countries. Since Ms. Meloni’s coalition won by an overwhelming majority, she could easily reverse the course of Mr. Draghi’s foreign policy, especially regarding arms deliveries and sanctions.
Since 2014, Ms. Meloni has been an outspoken supporter of Putin’s Russia on social media. According to Ukraine’s intelligence, Maurizio Marrone, a senior member of FDI who opened a delegation of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Turin, served as an observer during Russia’s sham referenda in the country’s occupied territories. Still in Turin, another member of FDI, Amedeo Avondet, organized a pro-Kremlin rally with the endorsement of Russian officials.
The remaining stakeholders in the winning coalition, namely the League leader Matteo Salvini and former PM Silvio Berlusconi, have traditionally lobbied for Moscow’s interests in Rome. One of Mr. Salvini’s closest aides, Gianluca Savoini, is mentioned in a legal investigation on the Italian foreign fighters in Donbas and is being prosecuted for having discussed covert financing to the party with Russian agents. Before withdrawing support from Mr. Draghi’s cabinet on July 21, both Mr. Salvini and Mr. Berlusconi held calls and meetings with Russia’s ambassador to Italy.
However, though her domestic coalition still defends Putin’s war of conquest, since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Ms. Meloni has been distancing herself from Russia. One reason could be found in the positioning of the party in the EU parliament. There, FDI is a member of the European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) Group, to which Ms. Meloni owes much in terms of visibility. With Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) her largest partner in the ECR, the leader of FDI cannot turn away from Kyiv without losing long-term influence in Brussels.
Aiming to polish her image in the US, Ms. Meloni has also strengthened ties with the American Republican Party. Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, who once represented Italy to the US, the UN, and Israel, charts the diplomatic relations of FDI. According to Mr. Terzi, who is poised to become the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the country “must act with its Euro-Atlantic partners to keep on the right side of history”. During the electoral campaign, the FDI Senator Adolfo Urso traveled to Washington and Kyiv to meet with local officials. Mr. Urso, who is considered a “Russophobe” by Russia’s state media, is the head of the Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Italian Republic (COPASIR) and aspires to the Ministry of Defense.
Since Mr. Salvini’s League and Mr. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia underperformed in the elections, Ms. Meloni can negotiate with them from a position of strength. Unlike her domestic partners, the next Italian PM scorned Russia’s attempt to annex four Ukrainian regions and reiterated full support to Kyiv during an exchange with President Zelensky. Moreover, she condemns China’s threats against Taiwan and argues that Italy’s adhesion to the Belt and Road Initiative was a mistake. As such, the victory of her far-right coalition is unlikely to compromise Mr. Draghi’s foreign policy achievements.
However, though the rising government would not weaken the Western resolve against Russia, there are widespread concerns about the cultural landmark of the future premier. Being an energetic and charismatic speaker, Ms. Meloni released three videos in three languages – English, French, and Spanish – reassuring the international community that she is not the leader of a fascist party. Nonetheless, the FDI's logo contains the Tricolour Flame from the Italian Social Movement, founded by fascist veterans after WWII. The PiS party – that is FDI's main ally in the EU – is responsible for the crackdown on media freedom and LGBT+ and abortion rights in Poland, not to mention the violent pushback on migrants and asylum seekers on the Polish-Belarusian border. Moreover, Ms. Meloni criticized the EU for allegedly targeting Viktor Orban’s Hungary over rule of law violations.
The next Italian government may well pursue a looser fiscal policy than the outrunning, with unpredictable consequences at home and for the whole Eurozone. Although Ms. Meloni pledges fiscal prudence, she campaigned on costly economic policies along with their partners. Italy’s public debt is already the third highest in the world and, as inflation soars, its increase seems inevitable. If Rome gets further into debt, it will force the European Central Bank (ECB) to keep Italian borrowing costs low, sparking tensions among the EU member states. Moreover, Italy’s accession to the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund is subject to liberalization reforms. Since FDI’s bedrock support comes from voters with protectionist beliefs, the country risks missing the requirements.
In conclusion, Ms. Meloni will not bring Rome closer to Moscow, but to Washington. On the other hand, confrontational rhetoric against Brussels, possible disregard for the rule of law, and recklessness in the fiscal and economic policy would nullify Mr. Draghi’s conciliatory efforts towards the EU. Meanwhile, the Kremlin will keep targeting Italy’s public opinion, weaponizing energy, asylum seekers, cyber-space, mainstream and social media, with the purpose of dispelling support for Ukraine.
- Moldova’s challenges alongside the war in Ukraine
- Is Israel's New Government Shifting its Policy towards the Russia-Ukraine War?
- What does Russia want from Georgia?
- Geopolitics, Turkish Style, and How to React to It
- The Ninth Package of Sanctions - in Response to the Russian Escalation and Missile Attacks
- The Danger Russia’s Neighbors May Face after the Russo-Ukrainian War
- What is Belarus preparing for
- European Parliament Resolution on the New Enlargement Strategy: The Window of Opportunity is Open Wide
- Belarus and Russia deepen trade and economic relations with occupied Abkhazia: A prerequisite for recognition of Abkhazia's “independence”?
- "Captured emotions" - Russian propaganda
- The Eighth Package of Sanctions - Response to Russian Annexation and Illegal Referendums
- Lukashenko's Visit to Occupied Abkhazia: Review and Assessments
- Occupied Abkhazia: The Attack on the Civil Sector and International Organizations
- War in Ukraine and Russia’s declining role in the Karabakh peace process
- Tajikistan’s Costly Chinese Loans: When Sovereignty Becomes a Currency
- The Russian Exclave of Kaliningrad and the Lithuanian "Sting"
- Seventh Package of Sanctions and Embargo on Russian Gold
- What could be the cost of “Putin’s face-saving” for European relations
- Why the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway Matters More than Ever
- In line for the candidate status, Georgia will get a European perspective. What are we worried about?
- Failed Tskhinvali Referendum
- The War and Georgia
- “Rural Orbanism”- Polarization as a determinant for Hungary's political future
- Illegal Presidential Elections in the Tskhinvali Region: Why Bibilov Lost and What to Anticipate in Future
- How to Respond to Russian Ultra-Orthodox-Historic-Hegemonism?
- The War in Ukraine and the UK’s New Role in Eastern Europe
- What Will the Abolition of the OSCE Minsk Group Bring to the South Caucasus?
- Why Has the Abkhaz Side Become More Active on Social Networks?
- Why a Neutral Ukraine Is Not on Putin’s Mind (Ukraine’s Neutral Status Is Getting Closer, but What Does It Mean to Putin?)
- Europe's energy future - challenges and opportunities
- Uncontrolled Mass Immigration and the Position of the Georgian Government
- Changes in Putin's propaganda narratives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Ukraine will soon embark on a path of practical integration into the European Union. What about Georgia?
- Positions and Actions of Turkey in the Russo-Ukrainian War
- NATO’s possible expansion in Northern Europe and its significance for Georgia and Ukraine
- Political Winter Olympics in Beijing
- What Is behind Putin’s Sudden Gambit in Ukraine?
- L'Europe pourra-t-elle éviter le “déjà vu” ? (France, President of the Council of the European Union, and the Tensions in Eastern Europe)
- US-Russia Relations and the Issue of Ukraine
- The New Targets of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Regime
- What Will the Post-Merkel Era Mean for the EU’s Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood Policy?
- What Lies Behind the Growing Cooperation of the Georgian and Hungarian Governments
- “Doberman” as a Minister: Inal Ardzinba’s Prospects and Challenges
- The Belarus Crisis: How to Enhance Our Resilience Against the Russian Strategy for Its Near-Neighborhood
- Moldova’s Gas Crisis Has Been Russia’s Yet Another Political Blackmailing
- Belarus One Year On: An Insecure Regime Under Russian “Protection”
- Russia’s Parliamentary Elections - What Can Be Said About the Regime’s Stability
- Can Georgia use China to balance Russia?
- The West vs Russia: The Reset once again?!
- Associated Trio, What is Next?
- Formation of a New “Political Elite” in Abkhazia - Who Will Replace the Old “Elite?”
- The Cyber-Dimension of the Geneva Summit
- Securitization of the Arctic: A Looming Threat of Melting Ice
- Europe in Anticipation of the Results of a “Harmful Deal”
- (Re)Mapping the EU’s Relations with Russia: Time for Change?
- USA, Liberal International Order, Challenges of 2021, and Georgia
- The Political Crisis in Moldova: A Deadlock without the Way Out?
- Russia's Testing or Bullying?
- ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’: A New Opportunity for Global Authoritarian Influence?
- The End of the Russian Natural Gas Monopoly in Balkans
- Who did the judge sentence: Navalny, Putin or Russia?
- 2020 Developments in Abkhazia: “Elections,” the Pandemic and Deeper Integration with Russia
- Could Belarus Become a Prelude to the Great Polish-Swedish War 400 Years Ago?
- Vladimir Putin's Annual Grand Press Conference - Notable Elements and Messages
- Russia’s Energy Policy in the Tskhinvali Region
- Who Won and Who Lost with the War in Karabakh?
- What Russia has Gained in Karabakh
- What Armenia Did and Did not Lose as a Result of the Ceasefire Declaration in Karabakh
- Protests in Belarus, Lukashenko and the Russian Federation
- Some Thoughts on the Use of the Term „Post-Soviet Space“
- Khabarovsk Krai Protests as an Indicator of the Russian Federation’s Stability
- Trio Pandemic Propaganda: How China, Russia and Iran Are Targeting the West
- From Russia with… a Canny Plan
- “Elections” in Abkhazia: New “President’s” Revanche and Challenges
- Georgians Fighting the Same Battle 99 Years Later
- Confrontation between Russia and Turkey in Syria
- Political Crisis in Occupied Abkhazia
- What is the Significance of Killing General Qasem Soleimani?
- What Will the New Dialogue Format with Russia Bring for Georgia?
- On the “Russian Culture Center” in Georgia
- Main Messages of Russian Propaganda
- What do we know about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Georgia?
- New Focuses of the Anti-Occupation Policy
- Georgia's Problems are not Addressed at G7 Meetings: Who is to Blame?
- Vladimir Putin’s Main Messages in his Interview with the Financial Times
- Georgia and Russia’s Post-modern Fascism
- Dugin has Come Out as a Supporter of Georgia – How Did This Happen?
- Deterring Russia
- On NATO, Russia and Pat Buchanan
- Does the Principle of Strategic Partnership Work in Ukraine-Georgia Relations?
- Modern Russia’s Own Wars of Religion
- Bolton’s visit to Moscow– what to expect in U.S-Russia relations?
- The Risk of the Renewal of the Karabakh Conflict after the Velvet Revolution in Armenia
- The Situation in Syria’s Idlib Province, Interests of the Parties and Threats
- The Helsinki Summit and its General Results
- Why It Is Necessary to Know the Day the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 Started
- Decisive Struggle for the Independence of the Ukrainian Church
- Georgia’s Position in the Westernization Index 2018
- Why Did the Results of the G7 Summit in Charlevoix not Meet Our Expectations?
- How to Win Cold War 2.0
- The Russian “Ambassador’s” Rotation in Abkhazia
- Why did the Foreign Ministers of G7 not remember Georgia during their 23 April 2018 Toronto Meeting?
- Georgia and the American Strategy
- Putin’s Pre-Election Economic Promises: Myth and Reality
- Let Geneva Stay the Way it is
- Turkey’s Military Operation in Afrin – a New Phase in the Syrian Conflict
- Kremlin New Appointments and the Occupied Regions of Georgia
- Dangers Originating from Russia and Georgia’s Security System
- Eurasian Custom Union and problems of Russian – Georgian FTA
- Is Georgia’s Export Growth Sustainable?
- Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration
- What Awaits the People of Gali?
- Growth of Military Spending and Relations with Russia: Azerbaijan trying to Gain Advantage over Armenia
- Disrupt and Distract: Russia’s Methodology of Dealing with the West
- Russian Diplomats in Georgia – who are they, how many of them are there and what are they up to
- Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate?
- Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality?
- How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation”
- Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage
- Syrian Civil War in the Context of Regional Security
- The Winnable Second Round of Russia’s Neighbors’ Struggle against Its Imperialism
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia – The Triumph of the Governing Party
- Current Foreign Policy of Georgia: How Effective is it in Dealing with the Existing Challenges?
- Observations on the Agreement Reached with Gazprom
- New Russian Weaponry in the Caucasus and Its Impact on Georgia’s NATO Aspiration