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Roma (AFP) – Giorgia Meloni officially takes office as Italy’s first female prime minister on Sunday, a day after being sworn in as head of the country’s most right-wing government since World War II.
The handover of power from outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Meloni will take place at Palazzo Chigi in Rome and a first cabinet meeting will follow shortly thereafter.
The symbolic act at the seat of Italian government will see former European Central Bank chief Draghi, in charge since February 2021, hand over a bell used by the cabinet president to manage cabinet debates.
European Union chiefs, wary of the far-right takeover, said on Saturday they were ready to cooperate with the new coalition government led by the post-fascist and eurosceptic Brothers of Italy party. by Meloni.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Meloni and said she had had “good” phone conversations with her, while Meloni said she was ready to work with the bloc’s leaders.
The daily La Stampa spoke on Sunday of a “European start” on the front page. “Meloni: at work, with pride”, shouted the Corriere della Sera.
On Saturday, Meloni and his 24 ministers were sworn in before President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, once the residence of Italy’s popes and kings.
The 45-year-old’s appointment is a historic event for the eurozone’s third-largest economy and for Brothers of Italy, which has never been in government.
He won 26% of the vote in last month’s election, compared to 8 and 9% respectively for Meloni’s coalition partners, former leader Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the far-right League led by Matteo Salvini.
A former admirer of former dictator Benito Mussolini, Meloni managed to distance her party from its fascist roots.
Major challenges, including soaring inflation and Italy’s high debt ratio – the highest in the eurozone after Greece – await the new government.
Meloni’s cabinet, made up of six women, suggests a desire to reassure Italy’s partners. She appointed Giancarlo Giorgetti to the post of economy minister, who served under the previous government of Mario Draghi.
Giorgetti, a former economic development minister, is considered one of the most moderate pro-European members of Salvini’s League.
Meloni also appointed former European Parliament President Antonio Tajani of Forza Italia as foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
Salvini will serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, which will likely disappoint Salvini.
He wanted the post of interior minister, a position he previously held between 2018 and 2019. This fell to a technocrat, the prefect of Rome Matteo Piantedosi.
Talks to form a government had been overshadowed by disagreements with its two potential coalition partners.
Italian media made much of the comments recorded by Berlusconi defending Russian President Vladimir Putin, remarks he said were taken out of context.
Salvini, too, is a longtime Putin fan and has criticized Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Despite his Eurosceptic stance however, Meloni has been firm in his support for Kyiv, in line with the rest of the European Union and the United States.
On Saturday, she affirmed her desire to work with NATO, which she described as “more than a military alliance: a bulwark of common values that we will never stop defending”.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden sent their congratulations to Meloni, as did Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
But tensions with her coalition partners are already raising questions about whether she will be able to maintain a majority in Italy’s notoriously volatile parliamentary system.
Conservative European leaders, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, hailed the right-wing victory.
© 2022 AFP