Georgia Meloni was 19 and speaking to French TV when she praised Italian dictator and Hitler’s ally Benito Mussolini.
At the time, Italy’s likely next prime minister was dressed in black and flanked by burly men.
Read and decide
Join EUobserver today
Become an expert on Europe
Instantly access all articles and 20 years of archives. 14 day free trial.
… or register as a group
Twenty-six years later, things look very different. Meloni favors stark white trouser suits and presses the flesh on European dignitaries. The normalization of the neofascist far right in Italy seems complete.
Part of the answer as to how this happened lies with an international political party, the European Conservatives and Reformists or ECR.
Meloni is the chairman of the ECR party which has significant representation in the European Parliament – and a disarmingly centrist brand image. In fact, the ECR is led by representatives of ultra-conservative and radical right-wing parties from Poland and Spain and by Meloni’s own party: the Fratelli d’Italia. [or Brothers of Italy].
Other key allies include Trumpist American Republicans.
So, should Meloni still be considered a neofascist? She insists she is a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she is prime minister, she is expected to respect Italian democracy – if only to keep money flowing from the EU. She also pledged to maintain her support for Ukraine and NATO.
Still, Meloni has shown little to no remorse for her past. She congratulated Vladimir Putin on an “unequivocal” electoral victory in 2018. And just last year she praised Russia’s defense of European values.
And so, questions remain as to just how much Meloni really moderated.
Valerio says there could be troubling times ahead – and not just for Italy. Meloni and his international allies still want a Europe that deprives LGBT+ people of their civil rights; who tells women what they can and cannot do with their bodies; and it fits with racist conspiracy theories like the Great Replacement.
With Meloni, it’s not like we weren’t warned.