Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first woman prime minister, vowed on Tuesday to steer the country through some of the hardest times since World War Two and to maintain support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Striking a combative tone in her maiden speech to parliament, Ms Meloni said her nationalist, right-wing coalition would make its voice heard in Europe and stressed her opposition to racism and discrimination.
In a warning to Brussels, she vowed to fight for the EU Stability and Growth Pact to be changed as one of her first prerogatives.
She said: “We do not conceive of the European Union as an elitist club with first-class and second-class members, or worse, as a joint stock company run by a board of directors with the sole task of keeping the accounts in order.”
“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, starting with the ongoing debate on the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact.”
In a swipe to France and President Emmanuel Macron, she added: “Those from abroad who say they want to watch over Italy are not being disrespectful of me or this government, but are being disrespectful of the Italian people who, I want to say it clearly, do not have any lessons to learn from anyone.”
The new Italian leader has often attacked Mr Macron on many subjects ranging from the management of migratory flows, to the extradition of Italian brigadists, to the acquisitions of Italian industrial flagships by French companies, to disputes borders on the summit of Mont-Blanc.
Speaking at a pre-election rally, Ms Meloni said: “Disgusting is France that continues to exploit Africa by printing money to 14 African countries, charging them mint fees, and by children labour in the mines and by extracting raw material, as is happening in Niger.
“Where Frances extracts 30 percent of the uranium it needs to run its nuclear reactors, while 90 percent of Niger’s population lives without electricity.
“Do not come to teach us lessons, Macron, the Africans are abandoning their continent because of you.
“The solution is not to transfer Africans to Europe, but liberate Africa from some Europeans.
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“We will not accept lessons from you, is that clear?”
The comments came as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne urged the European Union to uphold human rights values across the bloc in response to the Italian election results on September 26.
The French leader told RMC Radio that while she did not want to comment on Italians’ democratic choices, she nevertheless wanted to highlight that the European Union had certain values to uphold, such as on abortion and human rights.
She said: “In Europe, we have certain values and, obviously, we will be vigilant.
“It is a human rights value and the respect of others, namely the right to have access to abortion, should be upheld by all.”
President Macron and Ms Meloni held talks in Rome on Sunday in the first, though informal, meeting between the two political leaders.
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The French leader and the newly appointed Italian Prime Minister discussed current European issues including the need to provide quick and common answers to increased energy prices, support for Ukraine and the management of migrant flows, Giorgia Meloni’s office said in a statement.
The two leaders met at the Gran Meliá hotel in Rome for an informal meeting of more than an hour which was not in the French President’s agenda.
According to the note released by the Italian government, the two leaders discussed energy, Ukraine but also migratory flows and agreed to collaborate “in respect of respective national interests”.
“Relations between Italy and France are more important than people,” Emmanuel Macron told AGI news agency after the meeting.
In a thread of tweets about the meeting, President Macron first posted a photo with Mario Draghi to say “grazie” to him, and only then, in the reply to this first tweet, he published a photo with Ms Meloni practically in the dark.
To a journalist who asked him, during a press conference in Prague at the beginning of the month, if he was ready to work with Ms Meloni, President Macron had replied by first recalling “the happiness of each day that [he had] to collaborate with [his] friend Mario Draghi”.