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Italy's Meloni tries to distance herself from fascism

October 25, 2022

Addressing parliament for the first time as prime minister, the leader of a neofascist party said she "never felt sympathy or closeness to undemocratic regimes" and affirmed Italy's position as an EU and NATO member.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni reacts as Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani applaud
Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni reacts as Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani applaudImage: Remo Casilli/REUTERS

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni addressed parliament on Tuesday for the first time since she got the job. 

Meloni, the leader of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, has formed the country's most right-wing government since Benito Mussolini.

On Tuesday, in an apparent bid to reassure Western allies, Meloni sought to distance herself from fascism.

"I have never felt any sympathy or closeness to anti-democratic regimes... fascism included," Meloni told lawmakers.

She vowed to fight "any form of racism, antisemitism, political violence [and] discrimination."

Meloni has been keen on moving her party from the political fringes. Ahead of the election campaign, she apparently sent out internal memos to party groups instructing them to refrain from making extreme statements and references to fascism. 

Still, concern has grown in Italy and among its neighbors over civil rights, as well as Rome's involvement in alliances like NATO. 

Meloni gives policy statement in parliament

What did Meloni say about civil rights?

"A center-right government will never curtail the existing liberties of citizens and firms," Meloni said in parliament. 

"The proof of facts will show, even on civil rights and abortion, who was lying and who was saying the truth during the election campaign concerning our true intentions," she added. 

Meloni has appointed an ultra-conservative Catholic, Maria Roccella, as Italy's minister for family, birthrates and equal opportunities.

Roccella had pledged in 2018 to work against legalizing same-sex civil unions

Meloni, who has long called for restricting migration, also said on Tuesday that the government wants to stop illegal immigration and human trafficking. 

"We do not intend in any way to question the right of asylum for those fleeing war and persecution," she said. 

Italy will 'respect' EU rules and support Ukraine

Meloni had been known to be a euroskeptic politican. But she told lawmakers that the new government is committed to the EU and NATO. 

"This government will respect the [EU] rules currently in force and at the same time offer its contribution to change those that have not worked," she said.

Her predecessor, Mario Draghi, was one of the strongest supporters of EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine

Meloni said the Italian government would  "continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine." 

fb/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)