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Giorgia Meloni

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Giorgia Meloni
Meloni in 2023
Official portrait, 2023
Prime Minister of Italy
Assumed office
22 October 2022
PresidentSergio Mattarella
Deputy
Preceded byMario Draghi
President of Brothers of Italy
Assumed office
8 March 2014
Preceded byIgnazio La Russa
President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party
Assumed office
29 September 2020
Preceded byJan Zahradil
Minister of Youth
In office
8 May 2008 – 16 November 2011
Prime MinisterSilvio Berlusconi
Preceded byGiovanna Melandri
Succeeded byAndrea Riccardi
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
Assumed office
28 April 2006
Constituency
See list
Personal details
Born (1977-01-15) 15 January 1977 (age 47)
Rome, Italy
Political partyFdI (since 2012)
Other political
affiliations
  • MSI (1992–1995)
  • AN (1995–2009)
  • PdL (2009–2012)
Domestic partnerAndrea Giambruno (2015–2023)
Children1
Signature
Website

Giorgia Meloni (Italian: [ˈdʒordʒa meˈloːni]; born 15 January 1977) is an Italian politician who has been serving as the prime minister of Italy since October 2022, the first woman to hold this position. A member of the Chamber of Deputies since 2006, she has led the right-wing Brothers of Italy (FdI) political party since 2014 and has been the president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party since 2020. Forbes ranked Meloni as the fourth most powerful woman in the world in 2023. In 2024 she listed among the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

In 1992 Meloni joined the Youth Front, the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neo-fascist political party founded in 1946 by former followers of Italian fascism. She later became the national leader of Student Action, the student movement of the National Alliance (AN), a post-fascist party that became the MSI's legal successor in 1995 and moved towards national conservatism. She was a councillor of the Province of Rome from 1998 to 2002, after which she became the president of Youth Action, the youth wing of AN. In 2008 she was appointed Italian Minister of Youth in the fourth Berlusconi government, a role which she held until 2011. In 2012 she co-founded FdI, a legal successor to AN, and became its president in 2014. She unsuccessfully ran in the 2014 European Parliament election and the 2016 Rome municipal election. After the 2018 Italian general election, she led FdI in opposition during the entire 18th Italian legislature. FdI grew its popularity in opinion polls, particularly during the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy by the Draghi Cabinet, a national unity government to which FdI was the only opposition party. Following the fall of the Draghi government, FdI won the 2022 Italian general election.

Meloni is a Christian and a conservative, and she believes in defending "God, fatherland, and family". She is opposed to euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and LGBT parenting, saying that nuclear families are exclusively headed by male–female pairs. Her discourse includes femonationalist rhetoric and criticism of globalism. Meloni supports a naval blockade to halt immigration, and she has been accused of xenophobia and Islamophobia. A supporter of NATO, she maintains Eurosceptic views regarding the European Union which she describes as "Eurorealist". She was in favour of improved relations with Russia before the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which she condemned, pledging to keep sending arms to Ukraine.

Early life

Giorgia Meloni was born on 15 January 1977 in Rome.[1][2] Her father, Francesco Meloni, was from Rome, born to radio director Nino Meloni from Sardinia and actress Zoe Incrocci from Lombardy,[3] and her mother, Anna (née Paratore), is from Sicily. Her father was a tax advisor, and according to some political profiles had communist sympathies and voted for the Italian Communist Party, while her mother later became a novelist.[4][5][6] Her father abandoned the family in 1978 when she was one year old, moving to the Canary Islands and remarrying. Meloni has four step-siblings from her father's second marriage.[7] Seventeen years later, in 1995, he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to nine years in a Spanish prison. He last contacted Meloni in 2006, when she became the vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies.[8][9] Legal documents have recently[when?] revealed a controversial indirect economic link through a network of real estate companies in which the ex-wife Anna Paratore, mother of Giorgia Meloni, was a partner at various times.[10][11]

Meloni was raised in the working-class district of Garbatella in Rome, moving there after the more affluent home she had first lived in as an infant with her parents was destroyed in a house fire a few years after her father left. Her upbringing has been described by her family as impoverished.[4] In her autobiography, Meloni wrote that her childhood and her family's breakdown influenced her political outlook.[6][12][7][13] Meloni has a sister, Arianna, who was born in 1975 and is married to Francesco Lollobrigida,[14] the Italian Minister of Agriculture since 22 October 2022.[15]

Education and early political activism

In 1992, at 15 years of age, Meloni joined the Youth Front, the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neo-fascist political party that dissolved in 1995.[1] During this time, she founded the student coordination Gli Antenati (The Ancestors), which took part in the protest against the public education reform promoted by minister Rosa Russo Iervolino.[16] In 1996, she became the national leader of Student Action, the student movement of the post-fascist National Alliance (AN), the national-conservative heir of the MSI, representing this movement in the Student Associations Forum established by the Italian Ministry of Education.[17]

In 1998, after winning the primary election, Meloni was elected as a councillor of the Province of Rome, holding this position until 2002. She was elected national director in 2000 and became the first woman president of Youth Action, the AN youth wing, in 2004.[18] During these years, she worked as a nanny, waitress, and bartender at the Piper Club [it; fr], one of the most famous night clubs in Rome.[19][20]

Meloni graduated from l'Istituto tecnico professionale di Stato Amerigo Vespucci[21][22] in 1996.[2][23] After her election to the Italian Parliament in 2006, she declared in her curriculum vitae that she obtained a high school diploma in languages with the final mark of 60/60, and "Diploma di liceo linguistico; Giornalista".[24] This created some controversy, as l'Istituto tecnico professionale di Stato Amerigo Vespucci[21][22] was not a foreign language high school and was not qualified to issue any diploma in languages; instead, it was a Hospitality Institute (see Istituto tecnico [it]) specialised in issuing professional diplomas for job titles such as chef, waiter, entertainer, tour guide, hostess, depending on the course of studies chosen by the student. It is unknown what course of studies Giorgia Meloni selected at l'Istituto tecnico professionale di Stato Amerigo Vespucci.[22][21] Meloni mentioned that the Hospitality Institute she attended became the Centro di Formazione Professionale Ernesto Nathan issuing diplomas in foreign languages. However, training centers are not allowed to issue diplomas. The Ernesto Nathan Professional Training Center issues qualifications for beauticians and hairdressers.[25]

Political career

Minister of Youth

2008 portrait of Meloni for the Chamber of Deputies
Meloni as MP in 2008

In the 2006 Italian general election, she was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a member of the National Alliance (AN), where she became its youngest ever vice-president.[26] In the same year, she started to work as a journalist.[27] In 2006, Meloni defended the laws passed by the third Berlusconi government that benefited companies of the prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi and also delayed ongoing trials involving him. Meloni stated "it is necessary to contextualise them. Those are laws that Silvio Berlusconi made for himself. But they are perfectly fair laws."[28]

In 2008, at 31 years old, she was appointed Italian Minister of Youth in the fourth Berlusconi government, a position she held until 16 November 2011, when Berlusconi was forced to resign as the prime minister amid a financial crisis and public protests.[29] She was the second youngest-ever minister in the history of united Italy.[30] In August 2008, she invited Italian athletes to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in disagreement with the Chinese policy implemented towards Tibet; this statement was criticised by Berlusconi, as well as the foreign affairs minister Franco Frattini.[31] In 2009, her party merged with Forza Italia (FI) into The People of Freedom (PdL) and she took over the presidency of the united party's youth section, called Young Italy.[30] In the same year, she voted in favour of a decree law against euthanasia.[32]

In November 2010, on behalf of the ministry, she presented a 300 million euro package called the Right to the Future. It was aimed at investing in young people and contained five initiatives, including incentives for new entrepreneurs, bonuses in favour of temporary workers and loans for deserving students.[33] In November 2012, she announced her bid to contest the PdL leadership against Angelino Alfano, in opposition to the party's support of the Monti government. After the cancellation of the primaries, she teamed up with fellow politicians Ignazio La Russa and Guido Crosetto to set out an anti-Monti policy, asking for renewal within the party and being also critical of the leadership of Berlusconi.[34][35]

Leader of Brothers of Italy

In December 2012, Meloni, La Russa, and Crosetto founded a new political movement, Brothers of Italy (FdI), whose name comes from the words of the Italian national anthem.[36][37][38] In the 2013 Italian general election, she stood as part of Berlusconi's centre-right coalition and received 2.0% of the vote and 9 seats.[39] She was re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies for Lombardy and was later appointed the party's leader in the house, a position that she would hold until 2014, when she resigned to dedicate herself to the party. She was succeeded by Fabio Rampelli.[40]

Giorgia Meloni with Guido Crosetto at a FdI rally in 2014
Meloni with Guido Crosetto during an FdI rally in 2014

In March 2014, she became president of FdI, and in April she was nominated for the 2014 European Parliament election in Italy as the leader of the FdI in all five constituencies. FdI party obtained 3.7% of the votes, not exceeding the threshold of 4%, and she did not become a Member of the European Parliament;[41][42] she received 348,700 votes.[43] On 4 November 2015, she founded Our Land, a conservative political committee in support of her campaigns.[44] Our Land was a parallel organisation to FdI,[45] and aimed at enlarging FdI's popular base.[46]

On 30 January 2016, she participated in the Family Day, an anti-LGBT rights demonstration, declaring herself against LGBT adoption. At the same Family Day, she announced that she was pregnant; her daughter Ginevra was born on 16 September.[47] In the 2016 Rome municipal election in June, she ran for mayor with the support of Us with Salvini, a political party led by Matteo Salvini, and in opposition to the candidate supported by Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI), Alfio Marchini. In May 2016, she promised to name a street after Giorgio Almirante if elected, causing controversy among the local Jewish community and the anti-fascist ANPI.[48] Meloni won 20.6% of the vote, almost twice that of FI's candidate, but she did not qualify for the run-off, while FdI obtained 12.3% of the vote.[49]

Giorgia Meloni with Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi in 2018
Meloni with Matteo Salvini (centre) and Silvio Berlusconi (right) in 2018

During the campaign for the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum on the reform promoted by the Renzi government, Meloni founded the "No, Thanks" committee and participated in numerous television debates, including one against the then prime minister Matteo Renzi.[50] As "No" won with almost 60% of the votes on 4 December, Meloni called for snap elections. When Renzi resigned the next day, she withheld confidence from the next government led by Paolo Gentiloni on 12 December.[51][52] The 2–3 December 2017 congress of FdI in Trieste saw the re-election of Meloni as president of the party, as well as a renewal of the party logo and the joining of Daniela Santanchè, a long-time right-wing politician.[53]

As party leader, she decided to form the alliance with the League (Lega), led by Salvini, launching several political campaigns with him against the centre-left government led by the Democratic Party (PD), placing FdI in Eurosceptic and right-wing populist positions.[54] In the 2018 Italian general election, FdI stood as part of the centre-right coalition,[55] with Berlusconi's FI, Salvini's Lega, and Raffaele Fitto's Us with Italy.[56] Meloni's party obtained 4.4% of the vote and more than three times the seats won in 2013.[57] She was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the single-member constituency of Latina, Lazio, with 41% of the vote.[58] The centre-right coalition, in which the League emerged as the main political force, won a plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies; as no political group or party won an outright majority, it resulted in a hung parliament.[59]

Giorgia Meloni and Sergio Mattarella in 2019
Meloni with President Sergio Mattarella in 2019

On 19 October 2019, she participated in the Italian Pride rally in Rome against the newly formed second Conte government. In her speech, she criticised the proposal to replace on the Italian identity cards of minors the wording father and mother with parent 1 and parent 2, concluding with the slogan "I am Giorgia. I'm a woman, I'm a mother, I'm Italian, I'm Christian".[1] This slogan was remixed by two Milanese DJs, becoming a disco-trash catchphrase with millions of views, imitations, and memes on social media, even winning a gold disc.[60] By her own admission in her autobiography, the media and viral success of the remixed music video, having lost the original satirical intention in favour of the LGBT community with which it had been created, greatly increased her popularity as a politician, who she said was suddenly transformed "from a boring politician into a curious pop phenomenon".[61]

In February 2021, she joined the Aspen Institute,[62][63] an international think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C.,[64][65] which includes many financiers, businessmen, and politicians, such as Giulio Tremonti.[66][67][68] On 19 February 2021, the University of Siena professor Giovanni Gozzini insulted Meloni calling her vulgar names from a radio; both the president Sergio Mattarella and the prime minister Mario Draghi phoned Meloni and stigmatised Gozzini, who was suspended by the board of his university.[69][70]

Meloni at CPAC 2022 in Florida

In October 2021, Meloni signed the Madrid Charter,[71] a 2020 document that describes left-wing groups as enemies of Ibero-America involved in a "criminal project" that are "under the umbrella of the Cuban regime".[72] It was drafted by Vox, a Spanish ultranationalist party. She also took part at Vox's party congress,[73] where she said: "Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology. No to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders. No to mass migration, no to big international finance, no to the bureaucrats of Brussels."[74][75] In February 2022, Meloni spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. She told the attending American conservative activists and officials they must defend their views against progressives.[76]

2022 Italian general election

Heading into the 2022 Italian general election, a snap election that was called after the 2022 Italian government crisis,[77][78] it was agreed among the centre-right coalition that the leader of the party receiving the most votes would be put forward as the prime minister candidate.[79] As of July 2022, FdI was the first party in the coalition according to opinion polling,[80][81] and she was widely expected to become Prime Minister of Italy if the centre-right coalition obtained an absolute majority in Parliament, which would be the most right-wing government in the history of the Italian Republic according to some academics.[82]

In an attempt to moderate herself to placate fears among those who describe FdI as neo-fascist or far right,[83] including fears within the European Commission that she could lead Italy towards Hungary under Viktor Orbán,[84] Meloni told the foreign press that Italian fascism is history. As president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party since 2020,[85] she said she shared the experiences and values of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, Likud in Israel, and the Republican Party in the United States.[86] Critics were sceptical of her claims, citing her speeches on immigration and LGBT rights.[87][88] She campaigned for lower taxes, less European bureaucracy, and a halt to immigration through a naval blockade,[89][90] saying she would put national interests first.[91][92][93]

Giorgia Meloni and other prominent members of the centre-right coalition at the Quirinal Palace in 2022
Meloni and the other members of the centre-right coalition at the Quirinal Palace in October 2022

In a record-low voter turnout election,[94] exit polls projected that the centre-right coalition would win a majority of seats in the 2022 general election.[74][95][96] Meloni was projected to be the winner of the election with FdI receiving a plurality of seats,[97] and per agreement with the centre-right coalition, which held that the largest party in the coalition would nominate the next prime minister,[98] she was the frontrunner and would become the country's first female prime minister.[99][100] The PD, head of the centre-left coalition, conceded defeat shortly after the exit polls,[101] and Hungary's Orbán, Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki, United Kingdom's Liz Truss, and Marine Le Pen, former leader of National Rally (RN) in France, congratulated Meloni.[102] European radical right parties and leaders, such as Alternative for Germany and Vox, also celebrated Meloni's results.[103] After many years of absence from politics, Gianfranco Fini, former leader of the MSI and AN during the early years of Meloni's political career, expressed satisfaction for her victory, said he had voted for her party, and described her as an anti-fascist,[104][105] despite her rejection of the label, which she considers to be political.[106][107][108]

Observers have debated how right-wing a Meloni-led government would be, and which label and position on the political spectrum would be more accurate or realistic. Many variously described it as Italy's first far-right-led government since World War II,[103][109] and Meloni as the first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, and some academics also described it as the most right-wing government since 1945.[110][111] Many questioned its direction, citing Berlusconi's and Salvini's Russian ties,[112] in contrast to Meloni's Atlanticism.[99] Others, such as Sky News, while citing Meloni's and her party's neo-fascist roots, disagreed with the far-right label and said: "Giorgia Meloni is not a fascist."[113][114] Steve Sedwick of CNBC summarised the discussion, saying: "Have we got a centre-right coalition, have we got a right coalition, have we got a far-right coalition, or have we got a fascist coalition? I have seen all four printed, depending on who you read."[115]

Prime Minister of Italy

Government formation

Giorgia Meloni accepting the task of forming a new government
Meloni accepting the task of forming a new government

Immediately after the first meeting of the new legislature, tensions began to grow within the centre-right coalition. On 13 October, Berlusconi refused to support Ignazio La Russa, FdI's candidacy to be President of the Senate of the Republic. He succeeded in being elected by obtaining 116 votes out of 206 in the first round thanks to the support from opposition parties to the centre-right coalition.[116][117][118] Tensions further grew, in particular between Berlusconi and Meloni, whom Berlusconi described as "patronising, overbearing, arrogant ... [and] offensive" in a series of written notes in the Senate.[119][120] In the following days, after meetings between parties' leader, tensions loosened and the centre-right coalition parties reached an agreement on the formation of the new cabinet.[121]

On 20 October, consultations between President Sergio Mattarella and parties officially began. On the following day, delegates from FdI, the League, FI, and Civics of ItalyUs ModeratesMAIE, announced to Mattarella they had reached an agreement to form a coalition government with Meloni as Prime Minister.[122][123] In the afternoon, Mattarella summoned Meloni to the Quirinal Palace, asking her to form a new government.[124] She accepted the task and on the same day announced the composition of her cabinet, which was officially sworn in on 22 October.[125][126][127] She is the first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister of Italy.[128][129][130]

On 25 October, Meloni gave her first official speech as Prime Minister in front of the Chamber of Deputies, before the confidence vote on her cabinet.[131][132] During her speech, she stressed the weight of being the first woman to serve as head of the Italian government.[133] She thanked several Italian women including Tina Anselmi, Samantha Cristoforetti, Grazia Deledda, Oriana Fallaci, Nilde Iotti, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Maria Montessori, who she said, "with the boards of their own examples, built the ladder that today allows me to climb and break the heavy glass ceiling placed over our heads".[134][135] The government won the confidence vote with a comfortable majority in both houses.[136][137]

Domestic policies

Meloni during a press conference in 2022

One of the first measures implemented by the government regarded COVID-19 and concerned with the complete removal of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate, known in Italy as the Green Pass; moreover, non-vaccinated doctors were re-integrated into service.[138] By this time, the government's workforce vaccination mandate had been in place for over one year, rendering the edict largely symbolic. On 31 October, the government approved a decree providing for a penalty of up to six years of imprisonment for illegal parties and rallies.[139] Despite being officially presented as a decree against illegal rave parties, the law was applicable to any illegal gathering that the public authority deemed dangerous, which garnered criticism,[140] including from jurist Vitalba Azzolini.[141] The decree also caused a lot of protests from opposition parties and civil rights associations, and was also contested by FI.[142][143][144] According to Amnesty International, the decree "risked undermining the right to peaceful protest."[145] The Meloni government has rejected the accusations and announced that it will accept minor changes to the text in Parliament.[146][147] In the first weeks after taking office, Meloni implemented stricter policies than previous governments regarding the fight against illegal immigration.[148]

From an economic point of view, Meloni and her government have decided to prevent the increase in energy prices, in continuity with her predecessor Mario Draghi, by lowering prices, giving subsidies to families and businesses and making new drilling decisions in the Italian seas to increase national gas production. The government decided also to increase the cash ceiling from €2,000 to €5,000.[149]

Meloni with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in March 2023

On 26 February 2023, a boat carrying migrants sank amidst harsh weather conditions while trying to land on the coast of Steccato di Cutro, near Crotone, in the region of Calabria. The boat was carrying between 143 and 200 migrants when it sank, of whom at least 86 died, including 12 children, becoming one of the deadliest naval disasters in recent years.[150] Meloni expressed her "deep sorrow for the many human lives torn away by human traffickers", and condemned the "exchange" of migrants' lives for "the 'price' of a ticket paid by them in the false prospect for a safe voyage".[151] On 1 March 2023, the new leader of the Democratic Party, Elly Schlein, as well as More Europe and Greens and Left Alliance asked for the resignation of interior minister Matteo Piantedosi.[152]

Meloni and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a visit in the flooded area of Emilia-Romagna

In May 2023, the government had to face severe floods which affected Emilia-Romagna region,[153] killing 17 people and displacing 50,000 others.[154][155][156] The provisional cost of the damage caused by the floods amounts to more than 10 billion (US$11 billion).[157][158] On 23 May, Italy's Council of Ministers officially announced the approval of the first law decree in response to the emergency, an estimated €2 billion recovery package that was aimed to public and private businesses, schools, universities, museums and farm workers, among other categories.[159][160][161] On 25 May, Meloni and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, visited the flooded areas along with Bonaccini. Meloni underlined the strong spirit of the Romagnol people, stating: "Usually, when you lose everything, the prevailing feeling is anger, blame-seeking, or resignation. In Emilia-Romagna I found people shoveling mud with pride in their eyes, saying: all right, we have a problem, but we will solve it, we will rebuild."[162] After weeks of tension within the government and between majority and opposition parties,[163][164][165] on 27 June 2023 the Meloni cabinet officially appointed army corps general Francesco Paolo Figliuolo as Extraordinary Commissioner for the Reconstruction.[166]

Constitutional reform

In late December 2022, Meloni announced that Elisabetta Casellati, Minister for Constitutional Reforms, would meet with the opposition parties to officially begin the roadmap towards a constitutional reform to strengthen the powers of the Prime Minister, even if the coalition's electoral program comprehended only the direct election of the President.[167]

On 3 November 2023, Meloni officially presented the reform which provided the direct election of the Prime Minister by popular vote, the so-called "premierato", and a new electoral law which gave 55% of parliamentary seats in both houses to the coalition that arrives first in the general election.[168] Following new legislation in Italy passed by the Meloni government, only a child's biological parent can be named on their birth certificate.[169]

Foreign policy

Meloni with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2023

The first foreign leader met by Meloni was the French president Emmanuel Macron, who was in Rome on 23 October to meet President Mattarella and the Pope, and had a bilateral meeting with Meloni, primarily focused on the ongoing energy crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[170] On 3 November, Meloni met European Union (EU) leaders such as Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Paolo Gentiloni, Roberta Metsola, and other politicians in Brussels.[171]

On 7 November, Meloni took part in her first international summit, the United Nations COP27 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. During her speech, Meloni stated: "Italy remains strongly convinced of its commitment to decarbonisation in compliance with the Paris Agreement. We must diversify energy suppliers, in close collaboration with African countries."[172] During the conference, the prime minister also had a bilateral meeting with the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.[173] In the following week, Meloni participated in the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia,[174] where she had her first bilateral meeting with the U.S. President Joe Biden on 15 November.[175][176]

Meloni with President Joe Biden at the White House in July 2023

In January 2023, Meloni visited Algeria, where she met president Abdelmadjid Tebboune with whom she signed a deal regarding gas supply to Italy.[177] Thanks to this deal, Algeria will become Italy's largest gas supplier.[178]

On 22 February 2023, Meloni visited Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss about the ongoing Russian invasion. Meloni also visited Bucha, in the suburbs of Kyiv, where the Russian forces killed more than 400 Ukrainians in March 2022.[179] Meloni stressed that Ukraine can count on Italy, adding "we have been with Ukraine from the beginning and will be until the end".[180] She was an ally of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and has praised Poland's support for Ukraine and Poland's acceptance of large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.[181] On 2 March 2023, Meloni visited India, where she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu.[182] During a press conference, Meloni praised Modi and his policies, describing him as the "most loved leader in the world".[183] In March 2023, she hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome.[184][185]

In April 2023, Meloni had a state visit in Ethiopia, where she met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. In Addis Ababa, Meloni announced the so-called "Mattei Plan" by the Italian government regarding investments in the African continent.[186][187] Meloni was the first Western head of state to visit Ethiopia since the end of the Tigray War.[188] During the visit, she also had a bilateral meeting with the chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki.[189] In May 2023, Meloni attended the 49th G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. On 16 July, Prime Minister Meloni, along with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, travelled to Tunis in order to sign an agreement with President Kais Saied regarding the strengthening of the economic partnership between Europe and Tunisia, the European diplomatic support for the disbursement of the loan from IMF and, especially, the fight against irregular migration flows.[190] She considered withdrawing from China's Belt and Road Initiative.[191]

Family picture at the 50th G7 summit hosted by Meloni in Apulia

In July 2023, she had a state trip to the United States. On 27 July, Meloni visited the U.S. Capitol where she met with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Later she met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House, where they discussed about many issues, including Ukraine, China and Africa. They also talked about the strengthening of economic exchange between the two countries, trade relations between Europe and U.S., security policies and the forthcoming G7 Italian presidency.[192] During the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Meloni stated her support for "Israel's full right to defend itself in accordance with international law, and to live in peace."[193]

On 28 April 2024, Meloni announced that she would run for a seat in the European Parliament in elections due to be held in June.[194] In the election, her party remained the most voted in the country with 28.8% of votes, and Meloni became the most voted candidate in the election.

From 13 to 15 June, Meloni hosted the 50th G7 summit in Borgo Egnazia, Apulia. The topics discussed included the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Middle East, Climate Change, China, migration and the economy.[195] [196] Francis became the first pope to address a G7 summit.[197]

Political positions

Some observers have described Meloni's political positions as far right;[198][199] in August 2018, Friedel Taube wrote in Deutsche Welle that "Giorgia Meloni has a long history in far-right politics."[200] In a July 2022 interview with Nicholas Farrell of The Spectator, Meloni rejected descriptions of her politics as far right, calling it a smear campaign by her opponents and cited British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton as one of her influences.[201] She has described herself as a mainstream conservative.[202][203] Additionally, Meloni has been described as hard right,[204] right-wing populist,[205][206] and nationalist.[207][208][209]

Meloni has been described as being close to Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary and leader of Fidesz,[210][211] and Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister and Conservatives leader.[212][213] Furthermore, she has been linked with the Vox political party in Spain,[214][215] representatives of the Law and Justice party in Poland,[216][217] and the Republican Party in the United States.[218][219][220] Meloni has self-described her political party, Brothers of Italy (FdI), as a mainstream conservative party,[221] and she has downplayed its post-fascist roots.[96][222] She is in favour of presidentialism and supports changes to the Constitution of Italy.[1]

Social issues

Meloni speaking at a Vox rally in Malaga, Spain

Meloni opposes abortion, euthanasia, and laws that recognise same-sex marriage, and describes herself as "pro-family".[223][224][225] She has said she "wouldn't change" the abortion law in Italy but wanted to apply more fully the part of the law "about prevention", such as permitting doctors to refuse to carry them out (conscientious objection to abortion).[226][227] She also stated that the recognition of same-sex unions in Italy is good enough,[228][229] and she said it was something she would not change;[230] in 2016, while she said she would respect the law if elected mayor of Rome, she had supported a referendum to abrogate the civil-union law.[231][232] At a rally at the Piazza del Popolo in October 2019, she spoke against same-sex parenting; her speech became viral on Italian social media platforms.[233] During a February 2016 interview to Le Iene, an Italian television show, she had also said that she would "rather not have a gay child".[234][235][236]

Meloni has opposed the 1993 Mancino law [it], a hate speech law.[13] She is opposed to the DDL Zan, an anti-homophobia law that would expand the Mancino law to cover LGBT discrimination, declaring in 2020 that "there is no homophobia" in Italy.[237] She is also opposed to surrogacy, which is pejoratively known in Italian as utero in affitto ("uterus renting"),[238][239] and she has pushed in Parliament for a law to make it a "universal crime"; her efforts have been endorsed by the Catholic Church and by Pope Francis himself.[240][229][241] Meloni is supportive of the anti-gender movement, based on Catholic theology in the 1990s that condemns gender studies, and she is sceptical of what she calls "gender ideology";[242][243] she says it is being taught in schools,[244][245][246] and that it attacks female identity and motherhood.[247] She is supportive of changing the Constitution of Italy to make it illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children.[248] In March 2018, she criticised The Walt Disney Company for the decision to represent a gay couple in the musical fantasy film Frozen II. On Facebook, she wrote: "Enough! We are sick of it! Take your hands off the children."[249][250][251]

Feminism

Meloni at the European Council in March 2023

In her 2011 book We Believe, Meloni wrote: "I am a right-wing woman, and I proudly support women's issues. In recent years we have had to suffer contempt and racism by feminists. ... Perhaps as far as feminism is conceived in this way, it is more a question of ideology than of gender and substance."[252] She is opposed to pink quotas and has denied being anti-women as accused by some critics.[253][254][255] Giorgia Serughetti, a political philosopher and author of The Conservative Wind, said that femonationalism is working for Meloni.[224]

The possibility of Meloni becoming the first woman to become Prime Minister of Italy had been widely discussed both prior to and after the 2022 Italian general election. Some women did not see this as a victory due to her political positions, while others saw it at least partly in a positive light, and a few others called her a feminist despite Meloni's rejection of the label.[256] Prior to the election, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented: "The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing."[257][258] This prompted a response from some critics and observers, including historians Ruth Ben-Ghiat and David Broder. Ben-Ghiat wrote: "Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy's darkest episode."[259] For her part, Meloni declared herself ready to govern and criticised feminists.[260]

Immigration and multiculturalism

Meloni with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders at the International Conference on Development and Migration in Rome, 23 July 2023

Meloni has criticised Italy's approach towards illegal immigrants,[261] calling for a zero-tolerance policy, and she wants to blockade migrants from reaching Italian ports,[90] and boost the birth rate of Italian nationals to ease the need for migrant labour.[262] She is opposed to birthright citizenship proposals, which would give citizenship including education rights to foreigners born and living in Italy.[263] She has linked illegal immigration to crime, and refugee arrivals to human trafficking and prostitution.[114]

Amid the 2022 escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, Meloni said she supported giving refugee status to those coming from a war-shaken country but not to other asylum seekers. She said: "It's time to call things by their name, to give refugee status to those fleeing war, women, and children, perhaps doing the opposite with those who aren't refugees."[264] In August 2022, she reposted a pixelated video on Twitter that shows a woman being raped by an asylum seeker.[265] The victim of the violence decried the publication of the video and said she was recognised by the video posted.[266] After receiving backlash, Meloni defended herself by accusing other politicians of not having condemned the rape itself.[267][268]

Meloni has blamed neo-colonialism for Africa's underdevelopment and the 2015 European migrant crisis, and she said she favours co-operation over what she termed France's neocolonialism.[269] She has been considered as opposed to the reception of migrants,[270][271][272] as well as to multiculturalism,[273][274] and she has been accused of making xenophobic statements,[275][276][277] as well as of Islamophobia.[199][278][279] In 2018, she said she would welcome Venezuelans, saying they are Christians and often of Italian origins.[280] She has often criticised George Soros and what she terms globalists, at times reflecting the views of Soros conspiracy theories,[259][281] once saying: "When you are a slave, you act in Soros's interests."[282] She has endorsed the Great Replacement, a white nationalist conspiracy theory.[259][283] She also believes there is a planned mass migration from Africa to Europe for the purpose of replacing and eliminating Italians, an antisemitic, white genocide, and far-right conspiracy theory known as the Kalergi Plan.[284][285][286] She has described pro-immigration policies as part of an alleged left-wing conspiracy to "replace Italians with immigrants".[263] In January 2017, she called immigration to Italy "ethnic substitution".[263]

Meloni with Mark Rutte, Ursula von der Leyen and Kais Saied signing Tunisian aid legislation and an agreement against illegal immigration

Meloni complained about the danger of ethnic substitution also in her 2019 book on the Nigerian mafia,[287][288] co-written with Alessandro Meluzzi [it], anti-vaccine psychiatrist, founder of the "Anti-Islamisation Party" and at the time primate of a schismatic Italian Orthodox Church.[289][290][291] Along with other white supremacist stereotypes, the book argues that a project is underway to "change the European ethnicity and create Eurafrica", that the Nigerian mafia is the product of "local cultures that practice ritual murder and cannibalism", and that "the corpses of white people are very appreciated" by the Yoruba, who are said to be engaged in the trade of human flesh and organs.[287][288]

In 2023, amidst an unprecedented migration crisis, she asserted that Europe and Italy need immigration and that only illegal immigration must be fought in favor of legal immigration.[292][293] Meloni tried to make a deal with Tunisian President Kais Saied, with a focus on stopping illegal migration from Tunisia to Europe. In September 2023, more than 120 boats carrying around 7,000 migrants from Africa arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within 24 hours, increasing the volume handled by the local migration reception center by 15 times and leading to the migrants outnumbering the island's native population.[294] Meloni declared that she wrote to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen "to ask her to come with me to Lampedusa to personally realize the gravity of the situation we face, and to immediately accelerate the implementation of the agreement with Tunisia by transferring the agreed resources."[295]

Foreign issues

Giorgia Meloni and Emmanuel Macron in 2022
Meloni with French president Emmanuel Macron in 2022

Meloni followed the PdL party line in favour of the 2011 military intervention in Libya; however, in 2019, she criticised the French rationale for the intervention, stating it was because of Muammar Gaddafi's opposition to the CFA franc.[296][297] She was critical of Italian relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, stating that these countries "systematically and deliberately spread fundamentalist theories that are the main causes of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism".[298] She opposed the decision to host the Supercoppa Italiana final in Saudi Arabia, and stated that Italy should actively raise the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia.[299] However, upon taking office, Meloni reversed her position, with her government stating it was "keen to maintain the excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia" yet still calling for a "firm reaction" against Qatar to which several Italians were accused of involvement in Qatargate.[300]

In 2021, Meloni stated her party "denounced the authoritarian, Islamist direction Erdogan's Turkey has taken for years and asked the EU to withdraw Ankara's status as a candidate country",[301] but upon taking office, pursued closer ties with the Turkish government, due to Italy's interests in Libya, cooperation in stopping migration, shared nationalist values and common disagreement with French foreign policy.[302] Meloni advocated for the expulsion of the Indian Ambassador to Italy as a result of the Enrica Lexie case,[303] and she urged Alessandro Del Piero to refuse to play in the Indian Super League until the detained Italian marines were returned.[304] Following the Asia Bibi blasphemy case, Meloni criticised what she called the "silence of the West" and advocated a stronger stance by the international community against human rights violations in Pakistan.[305]

Meloni with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2022
Meloni with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2023

Prior to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, she was in favour of better relations with Russia and supported lifting sanctions on the Russian Federation in 2014.[306] In 2018, she congratulated Vladimir Putin for his re-election as president.[307] In 2021, she wrote that Russia under Putin defends European values and Christian identity.[308] She has since condemned the invasion and pledged to keep sending arms to Ukraine,[309] and moved towards Atlanticism.[310][311][312] In September 2022, she said that Russia's annexation of four partially occupied provinces in south-eastern Ukraine has "no legal and political value."[313] She is supportive of NATO,[314] although she maintains Eurosceptic views towards the EU,[315][316][317] having also previously advocated a withdrawal from the eurozone.[318][319] She rejects the Eurosceptic label, favouring the Eurorealism of a confederal Europe of sovereign nations.[320]

Giorgia Meloni and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2023
Meloni with Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2023

A critic of China, Meloni is a supporter of closer ties between Italy and Taiwan.[321] She is a controversial figure in Croatia due to her Italian irredentist statements in which she claimed Dalmatia and Istria, and for being opposed to Croatian entry into the EU due to the unresolved dispute concerning properties of exiled Italians after World War II from these two Croatian regions.[322][323]

In 2018, she said that Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah were protectors of Syrian Christians in the Syrian Civil War.[324] In 2014, she condemned "another massacre of children in Gaza" during the Gaza War between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas,[325] but later changed her stance and became a supporter of closer relations with Israel.[326] However, unlike Matteo Salvini, she is opposed to moving the Italian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.[327] She has not apologized to African nations for wrongs committed during the Italian colonial period,[328] but is vocally critical of the legacy of the French colonial empire in Africa, arguing that France continues to exploit its former colonies through the CFA Franc.[329]

COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines

Meloni has exhibited support for vaccine hesitancy, such as not vaccinating her daughter during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy because "it's not a religion".[330][331][332] She has been criticised due to her statements on vaccines and COVID-19, stating the probability of someone aged 0–19 dying from COVID-19 was the same as being struck by lightning.[333][334] After her party won the 2022 Italian general election, they pledged to review the positions taken by the Italian government during the COVID-19 pandemic and end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place for health care workers.[335]

Relationship with fascism

During her political career, Meloni has expressed statements that generated controversy.[336] In an interview to the French newscast Soir 3 when she was 19,[337] she praised Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as "a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy",[338][339][340] and as the best politician of the last 50 years.[341] In January 2020, there was some controversy after Meloni and the comune of Verona supported naming a street after Giorgio Almirante; Meloni and the comune also supported giving Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor and senator for life, honorary citizenship. Segre said that she and Almirante are incompatible and the comune had to make a choice.[342][343] In May 2020, Meloni praised Almirante as a "great politician", as well as "a patriot".[344][345][346] He was the co-founder of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), who had a long post-war political career until retiring in 1987. During World War II, he was a wartime collaborator as a civil minister of the Italian Social Republic (RSI), a Nazi puppet state,[347] as well as editor-in-chief of the antisemitic and racist magazine La Difesa della Razza, which published the "Manifesto of Race" in 1938.[235][348][349] As a minister in 2009, Meloni visited Yad Vashem in Israel,[75] and she has also said as FdI party leader that her party "handed fascism over to history for decades now" and it "unambiguously condemns the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws".[1]

In November 2018, Meloni declared that the celebration of the Liberation Day, also known as the Anniversary of Italy's Liberation from Nazi-Fascism on 25 April, and Festa della Repubblica, which celebrates the birth of the Italian Republic on 2 June, should be substituted with the National Unity and Armed Forces Day on 4 November, which commemorates Italy's victory in World War I. She said that Liberation Day and Festa della Repubblica are "two controversial celebrations".[350] Meloni has tried to distance herself from her close ties to Roberto Jonghi Lavarini,[351] a far-right Milanese politician and entrepreneur known as the "Black Baron".[352][353][354]

Giorgia Meloni in 2014 with the tricolour flame in the background
Meloni with the tricolour flame in the background, 2014

After the formation of FdI in 2012, she decided to add the tricolour flame to the party flag, a neo-fascist symbol associated with the MSI, which derived its name and ideals from the RSI.[355] The tricolour flame is said to represent Mussolini's remains, where a flame is always burning on his tomb in Predappio.[356] Heading into the 2022 general election, Segre told Pagine Ebraiche that Meloni should remove the tricolour flame from the party's logo. FdI's co-founder Ignazio La Russa rejected this view,[84] and Meloni ignored the request, keeping the tricolour flame.[357]

Observers, including historians Ruth Ben-Ghiat, David Broder, and Laurence Bertrand Dorléac,[80][259][358] said that Meloni and FdI have been ambiguous about their fascist past,[359] at times rejecting it and at other times minimising it, and that this has helped to rebrand both herself and her party.[360] Responding to the 2021 Fanpage report, she minimised the investigation and refused to remove openly neo-fascist members of FdI.[361] In December 2021, FdI's Alfredo Catapano and Luigi Rispoli were among former MSI members who did a Roman salute, which was condemned by the ANPI. Rispoli told Fanpage: "I believe in the New Right and in the efforts Giorgia Meloni is making in Brothers of Italy. It makes me wonder, frankly, this clamour."[362] Shortly before the 2022 general election, she sacked a member that openly praised Adolf Hitler.[88] FdI had also distanced itself from the Ascoli Piceno party section after it celebrated the anniversary of the March on Rome in 2019.[363]

On 25 October 2022, on the occasion of the vote of confidence of the Parliament at the government, Meloni in her speech before the deputies said: "Freedom and democracy are the distinctive elements of contemporary European civilization in which I have always recognized myself. And therefore, despite the instrumental argument of my opponents, I have never had sympathy for undemocratic regimes. For any regime, including fascism. Exactly as I have always considered the racial laws of 1938 the lowest point in Italian history, a shame that will mark our people forever".[364][365][366]

Meloni in Kyiv 2023

Personal life

In 2015 Meloni began a relationship with Andrea Giambruno [it], a journalist who works for Mediaset TV channels.[367] The couple has a daughter born in 2016.[368][369] On 20 October 2023, Meloni announced her split with Giambruno, following his off-air statements transmitted by the television program Striscia la notizia that were described as "sexist" and "chauvinist", which included propositioning a female colleague for a threesome.[370][371][372] Meloni added that "all those who hoped to weaken [her] by attacking [her] personal life should know that however much the drop of water tries to dig out the stone, the stone remains stone and the drop is only water".[373]

She is a Catholic and has used her religious identity in part to help build her national brand. In a 2019 speech to a rally in Rome, she said: "I am Giorgia. I'm a woman, I'm a mother, I'm Italian, I'm Christian."[1][374][375] Despite her Christian beliefs and championing traditional family values, Meloni defended herself not being married to her child's father.[376]

In September 2022, she reportedly continued to embrace the old Italian fascist slogan "God, fatherland and family". She has said she resents being linked to Italy's fascist past.[377]

Meloni is a fan of fantasy, particularly [[J. R. R. Tolkien]]'s The Lord of the Rings. As a youth activist with the Italian Social Movement (MSI), she attended the Camp Hobbit festival and sang along with the far-right folk band Compagnia dell'Anello [it], named after The Fellowship of the Ring.[378] Later, she named her political conference Atreyu, after the hero of the novel The Neverending Story.[379] Meloni told The New York Times: "I think that Tolkien could say better than we can what conservatives believe in."[380] In November 2023, Meloni inaugurated a major exhibition on J. R. R. Tolkien at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the author's death.[381] Apart from Tolkien, she is fond of British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton and has said: "If I were British I would be a Tory."[382]

In addition to her native Italian, she speaks English, French and Spanish.[383]

Honours and recognition

Forbes ranked Meloni as the seventh most powerful woman in the world in 2022[384] and placed her fourth in 2023.[385] In 2024 she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.[386][387]

Foreign honours

Electoral history

Meloni has been a member of Parliament since 2006, being most recently re-elected in 2022.[389]

Election House Constituency Party Votes Result
2006 Chamber of Deputies Lazio 1 AN [a] checkY Elected
2008 Chamber of Deputies Lazio 2 PdL [a] checkY Elected
2013 Chamber of Deputies Lombardy 3 FdI [a] checkY Elected
2014 European Parliament Central Italy FdI 99,143 ☒N Not elected
2018 Chamber of Deputies Lazio 2Latina FdI 70,268 checkY Elected
2019 European Parliament Central Italy FdI 130,159 checkY Elected[b]
2022 Chamber of Deputies AbruzzoL'Aquila FdI 104,823 checkY Elected
  1. ^ a b c She was elected in a closed list proportional representation system
  2. ^ Meloni renounced her seat to remain a member of the Chamber of Deputies

First-past-the-post elections

Meloni won first-past-the-post elections for a parliamentary seat in both 2018 and 2022.[390][391]

2018 general election (C): Latina
Candidate Coalition Votes %
Giorgia Meloni Centre-right coalition 70,268 41.0
Leone Martellucci Five Star Movement 62,563 36.5
Federico Fauttilli Centre-left coalition 26,293 15.3
Others 12,269 7.2
Total 171,393 100.0
2022 general election (C): L'Aquila
Candidate Coalition Votes %
Giorgia Meloni Centre-right coalition 104,823 51.5
Rita Innocenzi Centre-left coalition 42,630 20.9
Attilio D'Andrea Five Star Movement 33,132 16.3
Others 22,998 11.3
Total 203,583 100.0

Municipal elections

Meloni lost the municipal election to become mayor of Rome in 2016.[392]

2016 municipal election: Rome
Candidate Coalition Votes % Votes %
Virginia Raggi Five Star Movement 461,190 35.3 770,564 67.2
Roberto Giachetti Centre-left coalition 325,835 24.9 376,935 32.8
Giorgia Meloni Centre-right coalition 269,760 20.6
Others 251,160 19.2
Total 1,307,945 100.0 1,147,499 100.0

Bibliography

  • Meloni, Giorgia (2011). Podda, Stefano (ed.). Noi crediamo [We believe]. Saggi (in Italian). Milan: it:Sperling & Kupfer. ISBN 978-8-8200-4932-4. OCLC 898518765 – via Google Books.
  • Meloni, Giorgia; Meluzzi, Alessandro; Mercurio, Valentina (2019). Mafia nigeriana. Origini, rituali, crimini [Nigerian mafia. Origins, rituals, crimes]. I saggi (in Italian). Mantova: Oligo Editore. ISBN 978-8-8857-2325-2. Retrieved 14 August 2022 – via Google Books.
  • Meloni, Giorgia (2021). Io sono Giorgia, le mie radici, le mie idee [I am Giorgia, my roots, my ideas]. Saggi (in Italian). Rome: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-8-8171-5468-0 – via Google Books.
  • Madron, Paolo; Bisignani, Luigi (2023). I potenti al tempo di Giorgia [The powerful in Giorgia's time]. Saggi (in Italian). Milan: Chiarelettere. ISBN 978-8-8329-6633-6 – via Google Books.

See also

References

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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Brothers of Italy
2014–present
Incumbent
Preceded by President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party
2020–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Youth
2008–2011
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Italy
2022–present
Incumbent
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Chair of the Group of Seven
2024
Incumbent
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Lorenzo Fontana
as President of the Chamber of Deputies
Order of precedence of Italy
Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Augusto Antonio Barbera
as President of the Constitutional Court