In her first keynote speech, the new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was an underdog who would beat the odds again. She outlined her policy goals to parliament.
Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a keynote address Tuesday she was an underdog who would beat the odds again in achieving her policy goals. These include energy hike curbs, continuing to help Ukraine and cleave to the EU and NATO line; introducing French-style semi-presidentialism and forging a fiscal truce. All this was underlined with her saying she had no sympathy for Fascism; its racial laws were the lowest point in Italian history.
First address to parliament
The situation in Italy does not “permit losing time”, Meloni said in her first address to parliament. She laid out her five-year agenda which addresses current emergencies like the energy crisis ahead of a confidence vote in the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday. The vote of confidence will bring her government into the fullness of its powers.
Saying she was “emotional due to the solemnity of the moment,” Meloni thanked President Sergio Mattarella for his “precious advice”.
“This is a fundamental moment for democracy, thank you,” she told the Lower House.
Meloni also thanked her rightwing coalition partners for enabling her to name a government in near-record time. She said they had formed a government “in one of the shortest periods of time in history”.
Italy’s first woman PM also thanked her predecessor Mario Draghi for enabling a swift passage of power, even though “ironically” FdI had been the sole opposition force to him. She also gave her most heartfelt thanks were for the Italian people, “the only sovereign”.
She added she felt on her shoulders “the weight of being Italy’s first female premier”. Meloni went on to say that “some people may not like some of our proposals, but we will keep our pledges”.
Determined to change Italy
She added she was looking at a 10-year horizon. She is also determined to change Italy even if it meant not being re-elected in 2027.
In a dig at some foreign countries who have said they will remain “vigilant” over the moves of a rightwing government, Meloni said “those who want to stay vigilant are not respecting the Italian people”.
She said, “Italy is part of the West, the cradle of freedom and democracy”.
Meloni said her government would always put the national interest first. She stressed “we don’t want to sabotage the EU but to make it more effective”.
She said, “Italy will be inside the EU institutions” and “we will respect the rules and will help change”.
Meloni also thanked the men and women who had given their lives on international missions saying “the homeland will always be grateful” to them.
Turning her attention to the energy crisis, Meloni said the sea had gas deposits “that we must fully exploit”. Furthermore, the government aimed to give “imposing” support to the energy sector and help Italians pay their bills, while some measures would have to be put off.
She said energy burdens should be shared in a “more balanced” way internationally”.
Meloni added that Italy, in particular the south, was “the paradise of renewable energy sources with its sun, win, the heat of the Earth, the tides and rivers. A patrimony of green energy too often blocked by bureaucracy and incomprehensible vetoes.
“In other words, I am convinced that Italy, with a little courage and practical spirit, can emerge from this crisis stronger and more autonomous than before”.
Ukraine, NATO, the EU and Italy
The PM continued that Ukraine’s freedom “can’t be bartered with our own”. She said Italy would not give in to Russian President Valdimir Putin’s blackmail on energy, reiterating Rome was firmly in the EU and NATO camp.
Meloni also said there would be “concrete measures against inflation in the budget”; that the European Central Bank’s gamble on rates was hitting citizens and businesses hard; that investing in Italy could be a “good deal”; and that the EU-funded post-COVID National Recovery and Resilience Plan was a “great opportunity which we must exploit to the best”.
She said Italy would negotiate “adjustments” to the NRRP to reflect the energy crisis and would push ahead without waste, while cutting debt with structural growth.
In other remarks, Meloni said Italy needed a presidential reform; that “we will give Rome the powers and resources worthy of a capital”; that “we will press on with differentiated autonomy; and that “I will not give up on reforms due to prejudicial opposition”.
She also said that the southern question must return to the centre of public debate.
Meloni voiced condolences for the recent victims of floods in Marche and said “we will not abandon you”.
She also said the digital transition would be accompanied by “technological sovereignty”.
Employment and tax
Meloni said those who want to set up businesses should be facilitated rather than hampered by red tape. “We must not disturb those who want to do things,” she said. She also announced a “fiscal truce” for citizens and businesses and said that “it’s now time for a real fight against tax evasion, not a rush to get revenue”.
Meloni announced a flat tax for the self-employed earning up to €100,000.
She announced “flexible” budget moves on early retirement and said that the pension system must also safeguard young people.
Meloni also said that the ‘citizenship wage’ basic income (RdC) was “not the solution, but jobs are”. She said the government would give support to those who can’t work, but that the basic income was a “defeat”.
Meloni has announced plans to partially repeal the RdC, a flagship policy of the 5-Star Movement (M5S). The RdC is particuarly popular in Italy’s poorer south. It has been criticised as a useless handout. Meloni herself has called it “state methadone” for the poverty and labour crises.
Education and birth rate
Meloni went on to say that she had been “struck” by criticism of her decision to add “merit” to the job description of the education ministry. Her belief is that a school system that did not reward merit enshrined lower standards.
On her new ‘birth rate’ brief for the family ministry, Meloni said the aim was to “support families, and launch a plan against the demographic glaciation” of Italy, with the greying of the country amid ever falling birth rates.
She promised to make nursery facilities free of charge and keep them open until late to help working mothers.
No sympathy for any regime
In other remarks, Meloni said she had never felt any sympathy with any regime, including Fascism; and would feel sympathy for “the young people who will protest against us in the street”. Meloni said the anti-Jewish Fascist race laws were “the lowest point in Italian history”.
Addressing fears on abortion and gay rights, she said “we will never limit existing rights”. Meloni has promised to give women an alternative to abortion. However, her ultra-Catholic new family minister, Eugenia Roccella, has said she is against abortion, gay marriage and surrogacy.
In other remarks, Meloni said a fresh pandemic along the lines of COVID-19 was not impossible “but we will be ready for one if it happens”. However, she said that “we will not replicate the restrictive model used against COVID”. She also said the government would be in the front line against the “cancer” of the Mafia.
Meloni said the government would crack down on illegal immigration while passing a decree on legal flows.
The government would also promote a “Mattei Plan” for migration from Africa. This refers to the late state oilman Enrico Mattei’s development schemes there, saying the root causes of migration like poverty and hunger had to be “eradicated”.
She called it a “virtuous model of collaboration and growth between the EU and African nations”. Stressing that it “cannot be the migrant traffickers who decide who gets to enter Italy”, she said refugee and asylum rights for those fleeing war and persecution would continue to be guaranteed.
Deflecting references to her recent call for a naval blockade against migrants from North Africa, she said that blockade was already being enforced by the EU’s Sophia Mission. “We must stop illegal departures and human trafficking,” she said.
Meloni the underdog
Meloni described herself as an “underdog” for the mammoth tasks facing her and in being Italy’s first woman prime minister. However, she promised to “upset the forecasts again”.
Meloni looked back at her personal history. She recalled she had grown up in a working class area of Rome, making it on her own without any influential friends.
During her speech, Meloni quoted Apple founder Steve Jobs’ advice to young people “stay hungry stay foolish”; French Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu’s saying “freedom is that good that makes you enjoy every other good”; and British conservative thinker Roger Scruton saying “ecology is the keenest example of the alliance between those who are, those who have been, and those who will come after us”.
Meloni paid tribute to the many illustrious women who had preceded her. They included educational reformer Maria Montessori, speakers Nilde Iotti, Tina Anselmi and Elisabetta Casellati; physicist Rita Levi Montalcini, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, outgoing justice minister Marta Cartabia; and others who had paved the way for her to break “this ultimate glass ceiling and become prime minister”.
She ended her speech by quoting Saint John Paul II: “freedom does not consist in doing what we want but in having the right to do what we must”.
She said “I have always been a free person, I will always be one, and for this reason I intend to do what I must. Thank you”.
Meloni’s speech was interrupted by 70 bursts of applause, mainly from the government benches.