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US, EU signal willingness to work with Italy’s victorious far right

Europe’s nationalist parties warmly welcome apparent victory of Giorgia Meloni; Spanish FM warns ‘catastrophe’ always follows populists

Leader of Italian far-right party "Fratelli d'Italia" (Brothers of Italy), Giorgia Meloni holds a placard reading "Thank You Italy" after she delivered an address at her party's campaign headquarters overnight on September 26, 2022 in Rome, after the country voted in a legislative election. Meloni is on course to take power at the heart of Europe. (Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
Leader of Italian far-right party "Fratelli d'Italia" (Brothers of Italy), Giorgia Meloni holds a placard reading "Thank You Italy" after she delivered an address at her party's campaign headquarters overnight on September 26, 2022 in Rome, after the country voted in a legislative election. Meloni is on course to take power at the heart of Europe. (Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday the United States looked forward to working with Italy’s new government after a far-right victory but would encourage respect for human rights.

“We are eager to work with Italy’s government on our shared goals: supporting a free and independent Ukraine, respecting human rights and building a sustainable economic future,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.

“Italy is a vital ally, strong democracy and valued partner,” he said.

Giorgia Meloni, who leads the Brothers of Italy party, is on course to become Italy’s first leader since Benito Mussolini with fascist roots after her campaign in which she denounced immigration and voiced skepticism about the European Union.

Her campaign motto of “God, country and family” has sparked fears of a regression of rights in the Catholic-majority country.

President Joe Biden, who defeated the anti-immigration Donald Trump, has vowed to put democracy and human rights at the center of his foreign policy.

Meloni, who is set to become Italy’s first woman prime minister, has broken with some other far-right leaders with her strong backing for Ukraine as it fights a Russian invasion.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends the Indo-Pacific Quad meeting during the 77th UN General Assembly in New York City, on September 23, 2022. (DAVID DEE DELGADO/POOL/AFP)

Reactions from Italy’s European neighbors have been mixed. Countries with more centrist governments were cautiously optimistic that their relations with Rome would not suffer as a result of Meloni’s victory.

“Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change,” said a spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that he respected the “democratic choice” of the Italian people, and emphasized the need for the two countries to “continue to work together.”

Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne offered a word of caution, noting all eyes were on Italy to ensure that the new government respects human rights.

“We will be attentive, with the president of the European Commission, that these values of human rights, the respect of one another, notably the respect of abortion rights, are respected by all,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said earlier Monday.

The European Commission said it hoped for a constructive relationship with Italy’s next government.

The commission, the EU’s executive, by principle works “with the governments that emerge from the elections,” said EU spokesman Eric Mamer at a news briefing.

“This is no different in this case. Of course, we hope that we will have constructive cooperation with the new Italian authorities,” he added.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses a keynote speech during an extraordinary session of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Balna cultural Centre of Budapest, Hungary on May 19, 2022. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

Meloni’s nationalist allies across the continent, on the other hand, offered their congratulations, from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Spain’s far-right party Vox.

“Great victory! Congratulations!” Morawiecki said on Facebook, using emojis to say that the two countries would be strong together.

Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party and the Brothers of Italy are both members of the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

“Meloni has shown the way for a proud, free Europe of sovereign nations,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal tweeted.

Balasz Orban, a member of the Hungarian parliament and political director for Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, also tweeted his good wishes to Meloni.

“In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges.”

But Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares warned that “populist movements always grow, but it always ends in the same way — in catastrophe.”

In Russia, the Kremlin said that Moscow was open to developing “constructive” ties with Rome in the wake of the far-right win.

“We are ready to welcome any political forces that are able to go beyond the established mainstream, which is filled with hate for our country… and show willingness to be constructive in relations with our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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