While right-wing leaders in Europe congratulated Giorgia Meloni on her projected win in Italy’s general election, the rest of the continent expressed concern.
On Sunday, Meloni claimed victory after her far-right Brothers of Italy party won 26% of the vote. While a government still must be formed, she is on track to lead Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II.
On Monday morning, reactions began trickling in from European politicians, but most European leaders have remained silent on Italy’s historic vote.
Two exceptions are the right-wing leaders of Poland and Hungary, who have not hidden their enthusiasm.
“Great victory! Congratulations!” wrote Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Facebook shortly after midnight.
“Bravo Giorgia,” Hungary’s Premier Viktor Orban said on Facebook, adding her victory was “more than well-deserved.”
“In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges,” tweeted Orban’s political aid, Balazs Orban.
Polish politician Ryszard Czarnecki described himself as Meloni’s “godfather” because he recommended her as the head of the European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentary group.
“It was a very good political investment for us,” he said.
Meloni opposes punishing Poland and Hungary for failing to comply with the European Union’s rule of law.
“We will regain the EU for the peoples of the EU Member States. We will defeat the communists, the leftists and the LGBT lobby – all those who are destroying our civilization. We will hold the brazen and corrupt Eurocrats at the helm, led by Ursula von der Leyen, to account,” Polish lawmaker Janusz Kowalski wrote on social media.
In Spain, France and Germany, however, ruling politicians have expressed cautious anxiety about Italy’s election results.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said at a media conference that Italy’s vote was legitimate but emphasized that a government has yet to be formed.
He, however, said Europe is facing a “defining moment” and lamented that some political forces aim to follow Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s model…which is authoritarian and does not believe in plurality or diversity.”
“Populism always ends the same: in catastrophe,” Albares added.
When asked on French radio, France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne did not comment directly on Meloni’s victory but said “each state must be in line with (European values), on the rule of law, on human rights, on the respect of the right to abortion.”
A statement from French President Emmanuel Macron’s office, the Elysee, said France “respects” the “democratic and sovereign choice” made by the Italian people.
“As neighbors and friends, we must continue to work together…It is as Europeans that we will succeed in meeting our common challenges,” the statement said, according to a report by BFMTV news.
In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner only told reporters that “Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens, and we assume that will not change.”
But Rasmus Andresen, the spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, was less diplomatic, saying the results of the Italian election “will weaken Europe.”
“Italy will not leave the EU, but will block necessary reforms. The EU must not be naive when dealing with the new government,” he tweeted.
– Far-right, Eurosceptic allies glad
At the same time, aspiring far-right parties across Europe rejoiced at Meloni’s win.
Spain’s far-right Vox party said Italy’s election signals “a new dawn for Europe,” with Italy “saying enough to leftists and globalism.”
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen congratulated Italian politicians “for resisting the threats of an anti-democratic and arrogant European Union.”
The German far-right party AfD also cheered Italy’s political turn, noting it is “just like in Sweden.”
In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, which is outspoken against Islam and foreigners, and Thierry Baudet, leader of the far-right Forum for Democracy party, congratulated Meloni.
“Long live Italy” and “Bye bye Ursula,” wrote Wilders in reference to European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen.
Portugal’s third-largest political party CHEGA also congratulated the Italian right wing. In a statement to the press, it said that Italy’s government will trigger a “political reconfiguration of Europe” and that “the winds of change will arrive in Portugal.”
The Austrian Freedom Party agreed that momentum in Europe is shifting with the far-right victory in the Italian election.
“Yesterday was not just a good day for Italy, but also for Europe. Italians have clearly rejected the EU establishment…which continues with its centralization plans to turn the union into The United States of Europe,” said Harald Vilimsky, chairman of the party’s European Parliament group.
“The more patriotic governments we have, the sooner we can address serious issues like mass migration and preserving our sovereignty and identity to ensure prosperity.”
*Agnes Szucs from Brussels, Jo Harper from Warsawf and Shweta Desai from Paris contributed to this story