‘We are not Martians’: Italian PM Meloni Visits Brussels
The EU has experienced issues with internal cohesion throughout its history.
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first overtly right-wing leader since the end of the Second World War, traveled to the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels on Thursday. The trip drew considerable attention within the European bloc, as Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party has long maintained Eurosceptic positions and the prime minister vowed to put Rome’s interests first during her campaign.
In Brussels, Meloni met Roberta Metsola, the leader of the European Parliament and a major voice in favor of European solidarity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The prime minister also met with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council leader Charles Michel. Before the new Italian leader’s visit, Metsola had written on Twitter that the EU “need[s] to stick together,” which many interpreted as an implicit message to Meloni regarding European unity. The other leaders also indicated during pre- and post-visit statements that they had addressed the issue of Italy’s future place within the EU and the importance of cooperation in international affairs from Rome.
The EU has experienced issues with internal cohesion throughout its history. However, these concerns grew rapidly after the rise in right-wing populist movements, including the parties governing Poland and Hungary. Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine has strengthened the EU’s cohesion around anti-Kremlin policies, some right-wing populists, including Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, have expressed skepticism about the benefits of economic sanctions. In the run-up to Italy’s elections, observers suggested that the right-wing coalition in Italy—formed between the Brothers of Italy, the League of former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and the Forza Italia party led by notorious former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—might hold similar skepticism, as both leaders have noted the steep price of the EU’s sanctions on Moscow and Berlusconi had emphasized his friendship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. However, Meloni vowed in her inaugural address that she would continue to work with EU institutions, characterizing Italy as a key player in European affairs and harshly comparing Putin’s attempts to maintain economic leverage over Italy as a form of blackmail.
In Brussels, Meloni described the visits as “frank” and “positive,” telling reporters that she was “happy with the climate I found here in Brussels.” In her remarks to the press, she expressed gratitude for being “able to see and speak with people” in Brussels, claiming that doing so could “help dismantle the narrative about yours truly.”
“We are not Martians,” she said. “We are people in flesh and bone who explain our positions.”
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.