After the sensational populist upset in Sweden, the Italian elections next Sunday, Aug. 25, promise to be the next historic turning point for the battle against globalism and failed, destructive leftist madness.
The right-wing bloc is leading in all the polls, led by Georgia Meloni’s Brethren of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, approx. 25%), Matteo Salvini’s League (12%) and Silvio Belusconi’s Let’s Go Italy (Forza Italia, approx. 7.5%). This would put the populist “Sovereignist” parties way ahead, with about 250 seats out of 400 in the Chamber of Deputies and 125 seats out of 200 in the Senate.
According to the polls, you are about to become the first woman to serve as Italy’s prime minister. Italian society is considered to be very macho. What is your secret?
Today’s Italy is different from the macho stereotype that is still attached to it. Nonetheless, it is clear that having a female prime minister would mean breaking that “glass ceiling” that stops women from succeeding at both institutional and professional levels. I have established myself in a male environment, often feeling that I had to work twice as hard to prove that I was half as good as a man, but in the end, I am proud that I grew up in a political family that chose me as a leader by acknowledging my merits, without any man pushing me forward. That is one of the things that makes the Left’s heads explode, which has always had nothing to offer but words about the role of women in politics. I also had the privilege of being able to be a mother without giving up anything. I will fight to offer the same opportunities to all Italian women, by strengthening social measures and family policies.
Do you think women do politics differently from men?
Some people claim that I made it because I became as good as a man. I think I made it because I became as good as a woman. And that is exactly what I want to say to women. In the West, we frequently use mandatory quotas as a solution to the problem: for party nominations, corporate boards, etc. Rather, I believe that the solution must take into account both merit and opportunity. Opportunity, since a woman should never be forced to choose between her career and her family life in order to demonstrate her worth. Merit, because if the selection is made on merit, there are numerous exceptionally good women and there’s no need for quotas.
Of all the women leaders − Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, just to name a few − who inspires you the most?
I would like to think that I can get the best from each of them because I always expect a lot from myself, something that pushes me to work hard and constantly try to improve myself. The extraordinary women you mentioned shaped the history of their nations and of their times. They were known, and frequently loved and admired, around the globe. Regardless of their political views, they all loved and defended their country. This, to me, is what a good leader should always do.
The Italian election is taking place in time of crisis: a menacing global economic and social crisis, the endless war in Ukraine, tensions between the USA and China over Taiwan, and a possible new war in the Middle East around Iran’s nuclear plans. As a future prime minister, what are your priorities going to be?
First of all, in the midst of such a storm, you must keep the steering wheel on the starboard side. For us, this means Italy is fundamentally European and pro-Western. This is not just a statement of principle, but a choice of the context upon which most of our national policy decisions are based. The most pressing of these is undoubtedly to assist businesses and families in dealing with high energy prices, because we will face a severe social crisis in the fall, and must do everything possible to avoid it. Only after that emergency has been taken care of, we want to cut taxes to boost purchasing power, unleash the forces of our economy, reduce bureaucracy to encourage investment, build physical and digital infrastructure, and invest in family policies by getting rid of all those pointless bonuses that fuel welfare, but don’t advance the country.
The EU establishment and European press consider you as a threat to the European project. How do you foresee future relations between Italy and the EU?
In this regard, the Left is putting forward a narrative aimed at defaming me, but it actually defames Italy , offering hollow arguments to those who want to keep Italy on the sidelines of the international stage. The truth, of course, is very different. Italy is a great nation that founded the EU, is a net contributor to the EU budget, and has the third-largest economy and the second-largest manufacturing sector in Europe. The voice of Italy must count more, our national interests must be better protected, just as France’s and Germany’s are.
Concerning the future of Europe, first the pandemic and now the war demonstrated the EU was not up to the challenge. For far too long, Brussels has expanded its power in many areas of our daily lives, while disregarding the importance of a common foreign and defense policy, disregarding the importance of safeguarding our energy independence, without shortening our manufacturing chains, and without bringing strategic industries home. In this regard, I would like to see a Europe that does less but does it better, with less centralism, less bureaucracy, and more democratic control. This will be our contribution to the debate about the future of Europe.
How would you define your party, The Brethren of Italy (Fdl)?
FdI is the party of the Italian conservatives; we support individual freedom, the centrality of the family, the preservation of the Western, European, and Italian cultural identities, as well as self-reliance and private economic initiative and social cohesion. We are a modern European and Western right-wing government, a pillar of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party, of which the prime ministers of Poland and Czech Republic are members and which I have the honor of chairing. We also have strong ties to Israel’s Likud, the British Tories, and the U.S. Republicans.
Some members of your party are desecendants of Benito Mussolini’s family. The party has connections to the National Alliance − which emerged from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. What do you say to those who accuse your party of being “neo-fascist”?
These are ridiculous accusations, coming from a desperate Left, with no arguments. But I don’t want to dodge the question, because I know how delicate it can be to your readers (in Israel). Fratelli d’Italia is part of the evolving path of the Italian democratic right and since its foundation, it has gathered personalities from other center-right parties, from the Catholic and liberal worlds. Those who, like me, pursue that route, have relinquished fascism to the dustbin of history for decades, firmly condemning the loss of democracy, the outrageous anti-Jewish laws, and the tragedy of World War II under Italian Fascism. Many of us have previously held government roles; I, myself, was the youngest minister in republican history. We have all sworn an oath to uphold the Italian Constitution. Everyone knows that we have never been a threat to democracy and, obviously, we will not become one now, though we are certainly “dangerous” to the power of the Italian Left, which has been in government for years, without winning any elections. The difference between us and them is that I don’t spend all my time dwelling on the fact that, just over thirty years ago, many Italian Leftists were members of the strongest pro-Soviet Bolshevist party in the West. It is enough for me to list all the damage done by left-wing governments today, without having to obsess about the past.
Where do you see the ideological differences between your party and right-wing Lega (League) party?
The League was born as a regional party that first fought for independence and, in a second phase, greater autonomy for the regions of northern Italy. We come from a national tradition that pays equal attention to Italy’s north and south. The League temporarily filled the void left by the Right’s decision to merge with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to establish a unified center-right party, the People of Freedom. We progressively regained the values, and consequently the electorate, of the Italian Right when, at the end of 2012, we left that party to create Fratelli d’Italia. We also made efforts to widen our electoral base. In recent years, the League has consented to form coalition governments with left-wing parties and movements, while for us, being an alternative to the Left has always been a political imperative, out of respect of our voters.
Have you ever visited Israel? Are you planning to do so soon?
Yes, certainly. I was on an official visit to Israel when I was serving as minister during the last Berlusconi government. It was a very significant mission, with the moving visit to Yad Vashem: a conscience-shaking experience. I will certainly return to Israel, hopefully soon. It was something I was considering due to my role as president of the European Conservative Party, of which Likud friends are also members. But the war in Ukraine, the political crisis in Israel, and then the early elections in Italy as well have changed the agenda. I hope to return there as soon as possible, this time as head of government, to discuss together with the new Israeli government about joint collaborations and strategies, starting with those for the supply of natural gas through the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
What is for you the importance of a Jewish state?
Israel represents the only fully-fledged democracy in the broader Middle East, and we defend without any reservations its right to exist and live in security. I believe that the existence of the State of Israel is vital, and Fratelli d’Italia will make every effort to invest in greater cooperation between our countries. After all, this has been the friendly attitude that the Italian Center-Right has always held towards Israel whenever it has been in government. On the other hand, the Left cannot say the same, not traditionally nor in this election campaign, which has brought to light repeated incidents of left-wing candidates being caught making antisemitic-flavored posts on their social media.
Do you see a connection between those who call to destroy Israel militarily or through boycotts as a continuation of traditional antisemitism?
Yes, and I also think that one of the most common manifestations of antisemitism today is anti-Israel propaganda, which Jews in Europe are most likely to encounter online. Jews in Europe are also subjected to the threat coming not only from Far-Left and Far-Right factions, but especially from radicalized Islamic immigrants who feed on resentment with regards to Israel. I recall the recent death of young Jeremy Cohen, who was trying to flee an antisemitic attack in the suburbs of Paris, when he was killed by a tram. Because the tragedy would have drawn attention to the failure of integration policies, few European media outlets chose to report it. Therefore, as European Conservatives and Fratelli d’Italia, we strongly support the new European Union strategy against antisemitism. Israel is and ought to continue to be a crucial ally of the European Union in the endeavor to eradicate this evil worldwide. We support efforts to increase young students’ understanding of Jewish history, religion, and culture. This will support the elimination of societal prejudices and the full acceptance of Jewish customs in Europe.
Will a government headed by you recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the Italian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
This is a very sensitive issue, on which I think the next Italian government, like all those before it, will have to act in synergy with our partners in the European Union.
Italy has close economic relations with Iran. How, in your opinion, should the West prevent Iran from becoming a military nuclear power and how can Italy contribute to it?
Sanctions have had a heavy impact on many Italian companies that had built strong economic ties with Iran, nevertheless it is certainly not time for second thoughts unless certain conditions are met. Indeed, we are extremely concerned about Iran’s role in the region, its ongoing rapprochement with Russia and China, its continued support for Hezbollah, which continues to threaten Israel’s security, as well as the IAEA’s report indicating that there are insufficient effective controls over Iran’s missile development. Without additional assurances for Israel, which is reasonably anxious about the timing of uranium enrichment required to create the atomic weapon, we believe it will be difficult to revive the 2015 deal. We firmly supported the Abraham’s Accords as a means of maintaining regional stability and curbing down Iran’s aggressive foreign policy; therefore we believe they should be further implemented.
How can one stop the war in Ukraine and do you fear a greater war in Europe?
The war on Ukraine is not only a blatant violation of international law, an aggression against the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation, and a manifestation of Russian expansionism but an attempt to subvert the current world order to the detriment of the West and for the benefit of communist China. A scenario that Europe must strongly reject. A possible expansion of the war to other Eastern European nations is an eventuality denounced by our Polish friends, which unfortunately we must not underestimate. For this reason, we must not stop supporting Ukraine. Look, I say this firmly but with just as much regret, even knowing the special ties that historically unite Israel and Russia. In 2002, Italy itself hosted a NATO-Russia summit to build an enlarged West and face together the threat brought by Islamic terrorism. Twenty years have passed, that prospect has stalled, and Putin has unfortunately crossed a red line.
Should the West and the EU increase sanctions on Russia or should they seek to soften the pressure on Moscow in order to advance a diplomatic solution?
The Ukrainian counteroffensive these days demonstrates that the stranglehold exerted by sanctions and the sending of weapons to Kyiv is beginning to work, and I do not think it should be loosened. It does, however, raise an issue of the endurance of Europe and the West vis-à-vis the economic and political cost of the sanctions, which clearly has a different impact from nation to nation, with some major Western states even enriching themselves from this situation. That is why we have for some time been strongly calling for the creation of a compensation fund, supplied by the EU and NATO countries (the US first and foremost), to support the most vulnerable nations and to prevent Russian propaganda from making its way to the very many people who will have enormous subsistence problems next fall.
What is your favorite book? Music? Movies? Food? And do you consider yourself to be religious?
My favorite book by far is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a wonderful tale that is very beneficial for those in politics: It teaches one to put the fate of one’s community ahead of one’s individual destiny, but also not to be charmed by the thirst for power.
As for music, I listen to everything, from rock to classical music. Each chapter of my autobiography is introduced by the quotation of a song: from Ed Sheeran to Adele, passing through two Italian giants such as Battisti and Battiato.
My favorite movie is Braveheart, a tale of love and courage that was important for my generation. I love traditional Italian dishes. Wherever I go I like to eat the local specialty, which is also an important identity factor for each territory. I am Catholic, I believe in God, and among the Church figures to whom I am most attached is John Paul II.