New PM Meloni says Italy committed to Europe

"Italy is fully part of Europe and the Western world," Ms. Meloni told the lower house of parliament

October 25, 2022 10:09 pm | Updated 10:09 pm IST - Rome

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni. File.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni. File. | Photo Credit: AP

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed her government's support for the European Union, NATO and Ukraine on Tuesday in her first address to parliament, one month after her far-right party won a historic election victory.

The 45-year-old, who was sworn in as Italy's first woman premier on Saturday, also rejected any links with her country's fascist past, saying she had "never felt sympathy or closeness to undemocratic regimes... including fascism".

The prospect of a Eurosceptic, populist government leading the eurozone's third largest economy has sparked concern among Italy's allies, particularly in the European Union.

"Italy is fully part of Europe and the Western world," Ms. Meloni told the lower house of parliament, adding that it would "continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine".

The last government under Mario Draghi was one of the strongest EU supporters of sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, and also sent weapons to Kyiv.

Ms. Meloni supported that policy, despite being in Opposition — and despite Italy's heavy dependence at the time on Russian gas.

But one of her coalition partners, former premier Silvio Berlusconi, was recorded last week defending his old friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ms. Meloni said she would not give in to "Putin's blackmail on energy".

Like much of Europe, Italy is battling soaring inflation, fuelled by sky-high energy bills, which risks pushing the country into recession next year.

Ms. Meloni said she would strengthen existing measures to help businesses and households cope with rising prices, but warned this would have an effect on spending elsewhere.

After her speech, lawmakers will on Tuesday evening hold a vote of confidence in Meloni's government, the most right-wing in Rome since World War II.

The vote, followed by another in the Senate on Wednesday, is largely procedural, as her coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament.

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