- The new Italian Prime Minister presents his program to the Parliament
- Says country could face recession next year
- Said that European integration was badly done
- Says he has no sympathy for ‘anti-democratic regimes’
ROME, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister, pledged on Tuesday to lead the country through some of the toughest times since World War II and maintain support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
Adopting a combative tone in his first speech in parliamentMeloni said his conservative coalition would make its voice heard in Europe and disavowed fascism, despite his own party’s far-right roots.
Italy would continue to support Western sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin regardless of a cut in gas imports from Moscow, Meloni said in a high-profile speech that lasted more than an hour.
“Anyone who believes it is possible to trade Ukraine’s freedom for our peace of mind is mistaken,” Meloni said.
“Caving in to Putin’s energy blackmail wouldn’t solve the problem, it would exacerbate it by opening the way for more demands and blackmail.”
The leader of the Nationalist Brotherhood of Italy, Meloni, 45, carried to victory last month as part of an electoral coalition that included Forza Italia, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini’s Anti-Immigrant League.
The government is the most right-wing Italian administration since World War II and the former close ties between Moscow and Berlusconi and Salvini have raised concerns on its foreign policy.
Meloni later denied accusations by opposition lawmakers that she was anti-European, saying “you don’t have to be a federalist to believe in European integration.”
“(The European Union) got involved in a lot of things that should have been left to nation states…and was absent on big strategic issues,” she said.
Meloni said his government would offer financial support to families and businesses affected by the energy crisis, warning that the high cost of doing so meant his administration may have to delay some of its costliest campaign promises.
“The context in which the government will have to act is very complicated, perhaps the most difficult since the Second World War,” she said, adding that the economy could slide into recession next year as she was battling rising inflation and disruptions related to COVID-19. 19 pandemic and Ukraine.
Meloni, who grew up in a popular neighborhood of Rome, presented herself as an outsider ready to defy critics who accused her of being an illiberal demagogue.
“I never felt any sympathy or closeness to anti-democratic regimes. For any regime, fascism included,” she said.
“In the same way, I have always considered the (anti-Semitic) racial laws of 1938 the lowest point in Italian history, a disgrace that will taint our people forever.”
On immigration, a key issue for her supporters, she said Italy would seek to prevent the smuggling of people across the Mediterranean and work with African governments to help stem the flow of migrants from the continent.
“No one should come to Italy illegally,” she said.
Meloni’s supporters gave him a standing ovation after his 70-minute speech, chanting: “Giorgia, Giorgia”.
The lower house then approved the new government in a motion of confidence by 235 votes to 154, with five abstentions. A similar ballot is expected Wednesday in the upper house of the Senate, where Meloni also enjoys a clear majority.
Additional reporting by Gavin Jones, Giuseppe Fonte and Giselda Vagnoni Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Crispian Balmer
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.