Meloni collides with reality in his first year in the Italian Government

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When Giorgia Meloni became, a year ago, the first woman to govern Italy, many voices in Europe trembled before what was going to be the most right-wing Executive in Italy since the Second World War. The main fear was that it would join the ultra rearguard of Hungary or Poland and turn Italy into another wayward partner that would be involved in constant clashes with Brussels.

But if a year ago any of these frightened people had known the path taken by the leader of the Brothers of Italy in her first year as president, they would have signed it with their eyes closed. In the end, Meloni quickly understood that electoral messages from the opposition were one thing and being responsible for Europe's third-largest economy was another. The leader of the Brothers of Italy, who used to stoke Euroscepticism and during the campaign promised a naval blockade to stop the arrival of immigrants, has come face to face with reality and has not been able to fulfill her electoral dreams either in economic matters or in the issue migratory.

On big issues, both in finance and geopolitics, he has followed the principles of his predecessor, Mario Draghi, he has moderated his speech in Europe and has maintained an excellent relationship with the United States and NATO. On Ukraine he has not moved one bit in support of Kyiv, and he has visited African countries in search of energy agreements to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

“The non-Italian interlocutors expected a series of things, based on statements made during the election campaign, and in reality none of this has happened. They have found themselves faced with pragmatic positions,” explained former Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi to a group of correspondents. “She is the first completely political Italian leader since Matteo Renzi, and she is considered much less conflictive than him. In addition, in her favor she has to try to do many things and she speaks several languages ​​fluently, so communication is easy,” he indicated.

Brothers of Italy continues to be the first party in the polls, with 30% voting intention

In this bath of reality, it is in the field of immigration that Meloni has had the most credibility problems. The leader of the Brothers of Italy came to power raising far-right messages and promising to stop immigration, and has seen arrivals almost double during her mandate compared to 2022. This responds to the economic and social crisis unleashed in Tunisia – which already surpasses Libya as a country of departure – has ended up saturating the reception system on the island of Lampedusa, with crises like the one in September, when 10,000 migrants disembarked in three days on an island of barely 6,000 inhabitants.

The immigration issue has brought him criticism even from his government partners. If Forza Italia now barely aspires to survive the death of its founder, Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini's League has become the main headache for a Meloni who on the other side of Parliament has practically no opposition. “With Salvini as Minister of the Interior, this did not happen,” the head of Regional Affairs, the league member Roberto Calderoli, attacked him. The attacks, however, are precisely calculated so as not to create danger for the continuity of a Government that is emerging as one of the most stable in a country in which the life expectancy of executives in the last decade has revolved around a year and a half. Meloni's approval rating was at 49% in September, according to an Ipsos poll, while the Brothers of Italy remained the first party in the polls, with 30% voting intention.

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“On most relevant issues he is carrying out a centrist policy, not even a right-wing one. But from time to time she has woken up and remembered to be an identity leader,” adds Giovanni Orsina, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome. Starting with its failed extraordinary tax on banks, but also by controversial measures linked to its traditional conception of the family, declaring surrogacy as a universal crime or preventing homosexuals from registering their children with city councils.

His dream of containing immigration has not been fulfilled: arrivals have almost doubled during his mandate

Now it remains to be seen if, after the Spanish and Polish elections, in which her partners from Vox and Law and Justice have not obtained the results expected by Meloni, the Italian leader continues with her plan to turn the ultraconservatives into a force with power in the next European Commission or if, on the other hand, this favors its rapprochement with the European People's Party. The chessboard in Europe is moving, but Meloni doesn't seem to have any intention of going anywhere.

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