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New prime minister vows Italy-first rule

Meloni vows to protect industries, agriculture; Russian utility halts gas delivery by NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press | October 2, 2022 at 4:37 a.m.
Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni arrives at the Sforzesco Castle to attend Italian farmers association's event, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

ROME -- Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become Italy's next premier, vowed Saturday to put national interests first in tackling soaring energy costs as she made her first public outing since her Brothers of Italy party won the most votes in the country's national election.

Meloni's address to farmers and producers at an agricultural fair in Milan came as Russia's Gazprom utility informed gas giant ENI that no natural gas would be delivered Saturday to Italy via the pipeline through Austria, further tightening supplies as Moscow seeks to pressure Europe in its war against Ukraine.

Italian news reports said the cutoff wouldn't have a significant impact, given that Italy has greatly reduced its reliance on Russian gas since the war began. Meloni has strongly backed Ukraine.

Her outing Saturday to the Coldiretti farm lobby fair marked her emergence from a week of private meetings with allies and the outgoing government following the Sept. 25 vote that is poised to give Italy its first far-right-led government since World War II.

Much of those talks concerned high energy costs and the EU's response after Germany announced it would spend up to $195 billion helping consumers and businesses cope while refusing to back a European price cap on gas, as Italy and other countries have sought.

Meloni said if her government takes a similar action, it shouldn't be seen as some populist, nationalist reaction but rather a "lucid" strategy to "defend national interests to arrive at common solutions."

"Italy's posture must return to start off with the defense of its national interests to find common solutions," Meloni told the farmers.

Meloni vowed to protect Italian industry and agriculture from the effects of rising energy prices, as well as the residual effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a record heat wave that destroyed billions in crops.

Meloni, who would be the first woman to serve as Italy's premier, told the farmers a key priority was to protect the "Made in Italy" agricultural brand and its supply chain to reduce dependence on imports, while also keeping government interference to a minimum.

Before arriving at the Coldiretti forum, Meloni called on outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at his Arcore estate outside Milan, for their first post-election meeting. A joint statement said the meeting took place "in a climate of great collaboration and unity of intent," especially to confront high energy prices.

Italy has spent $58.8 billion since last year to ease the pain of higher energy prices for households and industry. But Coldiretti says that aid to farmers has been mostly tax credits and not direct help with electricity bills, which have gone up 500% since last year, or fertilizer costs, which are up 170%.

Italy has pressed for a European price cap on Russian natural gas but so far has been unable to persuade the rest of the EU's 27 nations to go along.

Information for this article was contributed by Colleen Barry of The Associated Press.

  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni gestures prior to speaks during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni smiles prior to speaks during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni blows a kiss prior to speaks during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni delivers her speech during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni delivers her speech during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni delivers her speech during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni tastes a piece of mozzarella at the Coldiretti village Italian farmers association's event, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni looks at a farmer making mozzarella knots at the Coldiretti village Italian farmers association's event, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 
  photo  Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni gestures flanked by Coldiretti Ettore Prandini, left, prior to speaks during an Italian farmers association's event, at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
 
 

Print Headline: New prime minister vows Italy-first rule

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