Reuters has reported on recent remarks by Giorgia Meloni, the new far-right Italian Prime Minister, in which she vowed to continue support for Ukraine and the EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion. Despite these remarks, Meloni’s rightwing coalition partners and her leading position in the Global National Conservative Alliance (GNCA) cast a shadow on her stance towards Russia. Global media is widely reporting that Meloni had harshly rebuked potential coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi following revelations that Berlusconi had “exchanged gifts and “sweet letters” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a France24 report:
October 19, 2022 Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likeliest next leader, was said to be shocked and livid at the latest gaffe by the man long known as the Cavaliere (the Knight), slipping out of parliament by a backdoor on Tuesday evening to avoid the press. As Giannini said, Berlusconi’s latest bluster “shattered the already fragile pro-NATO and Europhile equilibriums that the leader of Brothers of Italy was struggling to guarantee”. Breaking a daylong silence, Meloni issued a statement late on Wednesday insisting that she would lead a government with a clear foreign policy.“ Italy, with its head high, is part of Europe and the Atlantic alliance,” she said. “Whoever doesn’t agree with this cornerstone cannot be part of the government, at the cost of not having a government.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported last week on Berlusconi’s comments, and since then, Italian media outlet LaPresse released even more of the recording, in which Berlusconi defends Putin’s aim to remove the government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and replace it with a “decent, sensible” administration. However, following Meloni’s rebuke, the two met at her party’s headquarters and issued a joint statement in which they pledged to take part in a consultation aimed at forming a rightwing coalition government. Shortly after, it was reported that Meloni had accepted the job of forming a new government that would include Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega (English: League) and the Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi.
Somewhat overlooked in all the furor over Berlusconi’s comments was the election of Lorenzo Fontana, a prominent member of Salvini’s Lega party, as the speaker of Italy’s chamber of deputies. According to one report, Fontana is seen as anti-gay and pro-Russian:
October 14, 2022 Lorenzo Fontana, a prominent member of Matteo Salvini’s right-wing Lega party, was elected speaker of Italy’s chamber of deputies on Friday. Fontana, 42, was elected in the fourth round of voting, with 222 votes, ahead of the required majority of 197. A former cabinet minister, Fontana is described as ultra-conservative and is accused of being anti-gay and pro-Russia. During the vote MPS from the centre-left Partito Democratico — including Alessandro Zan whose bill aimed at fighting homophobia was blocked by right-wing senators last year — displayed a banner that read: “No to a homophobic, pro-Putin speaker of the house”. Fontana’s election comes the day after Ignazio La Russa, a founding member of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), was elected speaker of the senate.
According to the Italian news site formiche.net, Fontana is best known for supporting rightwing “culture war themes,” including opposing so-called “gender theories.”
October 14, 2022 The issues on which he spends the most time in political battles are family, birth rate and the fight against so-called gender theories. He has spoken out against abortion, civil unions and gay marriage. In the past, he has come out strongly against economic sanctions on Russia, which he considers a “model” in ethical and social terms. He participated in events organized by “Conoscere Eurasia,” an association led by Antonio Fallico, honorary consul of the Russian Federation in Verona and president of Intesa Sanpaolo in Moscow. At the World Congress of Families, organized in Verona in 2019 under the patronage of the ministry he heads, he had as guest of honor Alexey Komov working for the foundation created by Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch under sanctions. [Translated from Italian buy DeepL with edits]
Read the rest here.
Meloni is also known for opposing “gender ideology” and other similar culture war themes commonly espoused by rightwing/conservative Western elements. As the BBC recently reported:
A clue to her priorities came in a typically raucous speech she gave in Spain last June. “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!” In another well-quoted speech from 2019 she said: “I am Giorgia, I’m a woman, I’m a mother… I’m Christian.” For the role of Italy’s new family and birth rate minister, she has picked Eugenia Roccella who has spoken out against abortion and threatened to reverse recently agreed rights for same-sex parents.
GIOR reported last week that Russian President Vladamir Putin had once again delivered a speech extensively referencing culture war themes. A GIOR report on the Global National Conservative Alliance (GNCA) documented Russian Putin’s desire to become the ideological center of the GNCA, centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions. That report identified Hungary as the center of that alliance:
Russian President PUTIN has expressed an interest in Russia becoming the ideological center of a new global conservative alliance, and European far-right leaders have taken pro-Russian positions based on a similar ideology. Hungary is at the center of a developing alliance between European far-right nationalists and American conservatives that Russia could potentially exploit for use in information warfare. This alliance operates under the rubric of “National Conservatism,” centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions and representing a potentially radical change for the US conservative movement away from long-held Reagan-era philosophies
Read the full report here.
Opposition to “gender ideology” is a central issue for the GNCA and GIOR also reported last week on the role played by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Hungarian education facility supported by the Orban government, in disseminating Russian-style anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Orban, and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, both congratulated Meloni on her election victory in September, and Hungarian media has reported that other leading Hungarian politicians also congratulated Meloni, who pledged her cooperation with Hungary. These congratulations included Hungarian MPs who singled out Meloni’s view of “family policy.”
Meloni herself attended the February 2020 National Conservative Conference in Rome, an annual gathering of international National Conservative leaders. At that conference, Meloni spoke about “God, Homeland, Family.” Meloni’s 2019 speech at the World Congress of Families conference in Rome received high praise from leading US conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R Tex.), who declared it to be “spectacular,” and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R Ga.), who described it as “beautifully said.” The World Congress of Families is a US-based rightwing Christian group that has built an international network of anti-LGBTQ forces and opposes abortion and other reproductive rights. It is known to have received funding from Russian oligarchs.