Pax Meloniana: Italy’s Conservative Premier Is Learning To Flex Her Muscles Not Only at Home but on the European Stage

Since Ms. Meloni’s arrival at Palazzo Chigi, the premier has worked with legitimately elected world leaders of every stripe.

Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)
Prime Ministers Meloni of Italy, center, Sunak of Great Britain, right, and and Edy Rama of Albania at Rome December 16, 2023. Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)

News that Italian warplanes recently intercepted Russian aircraft straying over international waters in the Baltic Sea will serve as a warning to naysayers — both in Prime Minister Meloni’s conservative coalition and on the left.

President Putin is a menace to the West; and Moscow’s threat may be metastasizing. Mr. Putin’s shot across the aerial bow underscores Signora  Meloni’s ongoing insistence that members of the North Atlantic Treaty not go wobbly. Yet there’s a vacillating link in her center-right administration, too.

The latest polls show a slackening of support for Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s party. Forza Italia has now surpassed the Lega. Stunned by such fading electoral strength, Mr. Salvini has deviated from Signora Meloni’s pragmatic governance.

In addition to aligning himself with the French rightist Marine Le Pen in opposing a second term for the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mr. Matteo still nurtures a sotto voce bromance with Mr. Putin. After the Russian leader’s recent re-election victory, Mr. Salvini claimed that the people had spoken — a ludicrous notion.

Since her arrival at Palazzo Chigi, Ms. Meloni has worked with legitimately elected world leaders of every stripe. Not, though, Mr. Putin. Even before Italy’s action in the skies over the Baltic Sea, Signora Meloni had admonished Mr. Salvini for undermining the center-right’s mission on another front.

“We’re all in an electoral campaign,” Ms. Meloni allowed, in reference to the European Parliament vote, “and I fully understand electoral campaigns. But dividing us is the one favor we can give the left.” Added she: “Everyone in Italy and overseas knows that if there’s one person who has never governed and will never govern with the left it is I.”

Dickering with Madam le Pen, an unreconstructed French rightist with a blindspot on economic liberty, and thwarting Ms. Meloni, these are the height of inanity, if not betrayal. Moreover, such a political stunt undercuts the burgeoning success story that is unfolding on Premier Meloni’s watch.

According to the Interior ministry, migrant landings in 2024 have dropped 67 percent to 6,560 compared with 2023. Such progress is due to the cooperative bond that Ms. Meloni has forged with Ms. von der Leyen. Though they lurk on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, both women are compassionate problem-solvers who operate in the rough-and-tumble of the real world.

Like President Reagan, Giorgia Meloni is principled, with an instinct as a uniter (Reagan won a second term with 49 of the 50 United States). She can reach across the cultural and political divides to achieve unexpected breakthroughs.

Ms. Meloni has even been able to team up to good effect with the prickly Emmanuel Macron. She and the French president were largely responsible for bringing Hungary’s Victor Orbán back into the allied fold regarding Ukraine. This outcome would not have transpired absent Ms. Meloni’s diplomatic persuasiveness and rock-ribbed center-right profile.

Then there’s the Financial Times’ observation that the Magic Boot’s economy is rebounding. Italy’s price growth was reported below expectations, fueling the possibility of a European Central Bank rate cut. Many believed that Meloni & Co. would usher in a populist spending spree of unparalleled proportions.

Yet, as the Financial Times notes, Ms. Meloni “has defied those expectations, as her government has pursued a path of fiscal rectitude and forged a strong working relationship with Brussels. Concerns resurfaced last autumn when the government said it would not bring the country’s budget deficit below the limit set by the EU until 2026.

“Since then,” the FT notes, “Italy’s economy has performed relatively well while the outlook for Germany has darkened and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has lurched from crisis to crisis.” A curious byproduct of all those misconceptions is a growing realization among friend and foe alike that the President of Italy’s Council of Ministers is a critical thinker.

Ms. Meloni’s is a form of realpolitik that methodically grapples with an unpredictable global order — an object lesson that Signor Salvini has yet to master. According to a nationwide poll in January, six out of ten Italian citizens worry that their country will be engulfed in a world war.

A smaller percentage fears that Italy could fall prey to jihadist terrorism. With the Middle East aflame and Russia regaining ground lost to Ukraine, such concerns are mounting. In attempting to ridicule Ms. Meloni’s approach to Italy’s global role La Stampa’s Flavia Perina wound up highlighting the prime minister’s steady hand. And people are starting to call it “Pax Meloniana.”

The New York Sun

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