Giorgia Meloni formally took over as Italy’s first woman prime minister on Sunday, a day after being sworn in as the leader of the country’s most right-wing government since World War II.
The handover of power from outgoing premier Mario Draghi to Meloni will take place at Rome’s Chigi Palace and a first cabinet meeting will follow shortly afterwards.
The symbolic act at the seat of Italy’s government will see former European Central Bank chief Draghi, in charge since February 2021, hand over a bell used by the cabinet president to manage cabinet debates.
European Union chiefs, wary of the far-right taking power, on Saturday said they were ready to cooperate with the new coalition government led by Meloni’s post-fascist and Eurosceptic Brothers of Italy party.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Meloni and said she held “good” telephone talks with her, while Meloni said she was ready to work with the bloc’s leaders.
La Stampa daily spoke of a “European beginning” on its front page on Sunday. “Meloni: down to work, with pride,” blared the Corriere della Sera.
On Saturday, Meloni and her 24 ministers took the oath before President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, once home to popes and kings of Italy.
The 45-year-old’s appointment is a historic event for the eurozone’s third-largest economy and for Brothers of Italy, which has never been in government.
It won 26 percent of the vote in last month’s election, compared to eight and nine percent respectively for Meloni’s coalition partners, former leader Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the far-right League led by Matteo Salvini.
A former admirer of former dictator Benito Mussolini, Meloni has managed to distance her party from its fascist roots.
Major challenges including soaring inflation and Italy’s high debt ratio—the eurozone’s highest after Greece—await the new government.
Meloni’s cabinet, including six women, suggests a desire to reassure Italy’s partners. She appointed Giancarlo Giorgetti as economy minister, who served under the previous government of Mario Draghi.
Giorgetti, a former minister of economic development, is considered one of the more moderate, pro-Europe members of Salvini’s League.
Meloni also named ex-European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, of Forza Italia, as foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
Salvini will serve as deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure and transport, which will likely disappoint Salvini.
He wanted the role of interior minister, a post he previously held between 2018 and 2019. That went instead to a technocrat, Rome prefect Matteo Piantedosi.
The talks to form a government had been overshadowed by disagreements with her two would-be coalition partners.
Italian news media made much of the recorded comments by Berlusconi defending Russian President Vladimir Putin, remarks he insists have been taken out of context.
Salvini, too, is a long-time fan of Putin and has criticised Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Despite her Eurosceptic stance however, Meloni has been firm in her support for Kyiv, in line with the rest of the European Union and the United States.
On Saturday she affirmed her desire to work with NATO, which she described as “more than a military alliance: a bulwark of common values we’ll never stop standing for.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden sent their congratulations to Meloni, as did Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
Meloni said Italy would “always be on the side of the brave people of Ukraine.”
But the tensions with her coalition partners are already raising questions as to whether she will be able to maintain a majority in Italy’s notoriously volatile parliamentary system.
Conservative European leaders including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki hailed a victory for the right.