Meloni sticks to Anglo-Saxon course
For those who had hoped that cooler heads would prevail, Italy's likely new head of government, Giorgia Meloni, has made an important political announcement: immediately after her election victory, she declared her solidarity with Ukraine and assured Kiev's President Zelensky of Italy's continued full support.
Published: October 2, 2022, 10:39 am
Meloni wrote on Twitter: “You know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of the freedom of the Ukrainian people. Stay strong and hold on to the faith.”
Moreover, Zelensky had previously sent a congratulatory address to Meloni on her election success: “Congratulations to GiorgiaMeloni and her party on their election victory. We welcome Italy’s continued support for Ukraine in fighting Russian aggression. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with the new Italian government.”
The Brothers of Italy (FdI) leader on Friday said that Russia’s declaration that it has annexed areas of Ukraine that it has occupied is of no value. “The Russian Federation’s declaration of the annexation of four Ukraine regions after sham referendums held during a violent military occupation has no legal or political value.”
She continued: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has once again shown his Soviet-style Neo-imperialist vision, which threatens the security of the entire European continent. This latest breach of the rules of co-existence between nations by Russia confirms the need for firmness and unity by the Western democracies”.
Meloni represents more of the same
The previous government in Rome under Mario Draghi had also clearly spoken out in favor of supporting Ukraine and arms deliveries to Kiev. Meloni apparently wants to stick to this course even if Italian voters do not. Only 35 percent of respondents in May this year thought “European countries should invest more in defence and security to defend against Russian aggression”.
However, this could put her in a weak position in the future government – her coalition partners Salvini and Berlusconi have made no secret of their close ties to Putin in the past. Forza Italia boss Berlusconi has recently explicitly defended the Russian position.
Italy’s accommodating position toward Russia has been based on the NATO-skeptic, and EU-skeptic identity of the two largest parties in the Italian parliament. On June 1, Matteo Salvini, had announced he would fly to Moscow for peace talks without coordinating it with the government.
Former Italian leaders express concern over Meloni’s Ukraine course
He is not alone. The leader of the Five Star Movement and the former Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has spoken out against supplying weapons to Kiev in an interview with the Italian daily newspaper Avvenire. He also called for a return to the search for diplomatic solutions to the Ukraine crisis.
“The words ‘peace’, ‘negotiation’, ‘diplomacy’ have disappeared from the public debate,” he said. “I ask myself: have we resigned ourselves to the inevitability of war? When the Five Star Movement raised objections, they were just warning: war means war.”
He recalled in this context a statement by the newspaper’s director, Marco Tarquinio, “All wars have their reasons, but only peace has a meaning”. Conte added: “A contemporary policy today would initiate a debate on the need to end the arms race, not only in Ukraine.”
Former premier, Matteo Renzi, also expressed concern: “Every day the situation gets worse. I am very worried and I share the alarm of Pope Francis. From the first day of the war I say yes to sanctions against Russia, but I also say that we need a European special envoy: peace is built with diplomacy, not with the escalation of these hours. The world has never been so close to nuclear danger since the Cuban crisis sixty years ago. Wisdom is needed, so much wisdom.”
No Russian gas
Meanwhile, the flow of Russian gas to Italy has stopped, compounding Meloni’s problems. In a brief note, Italian gas concern Eni announced that no gas will enter the national network today from the Tarvisio entry point from Austria.
Italian power regulator ARERA said on Thursday that the nation’s already sky-high electricity prices were set to increase even more, with the average family’s bill rising by 59 percent. This was before the announcement of the end of Russian gas.
It said that without “extraordinary measures” to cushion the impact, the increase would have been 100 percent. The government has allocated over 60 billion euros this year to measures to soften the impact of soaring energy prices.
ARERA Energy Division Director Massimo Ricci said on Thursday that Italians would have to endure energy bills that had “never been seen before”. Inflation in Italy in September reached 8,9 percent – a record level in 37 years.
Already, ISTAT figures showed that more than 1,9 million Italian households were in absolute poverty in 2021, accounting for 7,5 percent of all households. In 2006, the percentage of Italian households living in absolute poverty was just 3,5 percent, according to ISTAT data.
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