(Ex-)Boyfriend Drama, Albania Pact, Russian Prank Call, and Atreju – A Summary of Meloni’s Autumn


As IEU students’ first semester and the solar year have just concluded, there could not be a better juncture for one to reflect on how autumn 2023, which ended on 22 December, went, not least Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister (PM) of the Italian Republic. 

Born in 1977 in a left-wing neighbourhood of Rome, Meloni has been engaged in politics since her adolescence, obstinately sympathising with the right. In 2008, when political ally Silvio Berlusconi established his fourth Government, he assigned the role of Minister of Youth to 31-year-old Meloni, who became the youngest Minister in postwar Italy. The Government collapsed in 2011, and in 2012, Meloni founded her own party, Fratelli d’Italia (FdI; Brothers/Siblings of Italy). According to its website, FdI stands with “liberty, democracy, justice, and merit,” battling for the conservation of “national tradition” and preservation of “the Europe of the [different] Peoples.” FdI grew with time and consolidated itself as Italy’s largest party in the latest general elections – September 2022 – in which it easily triumphed alongside its rightist allies. FdI, therefore, makes up the core of Italy’s current Government, with Meloni serving as President of the Council of Ministers – PM. 

Despite the outstanding dedication to her career, the Italian PM is quite the busy woman at home, too – in 2015, she entered a romantic relationship with Andrea Giambruno, and in 2016, their daughter Ginevra was born. Until a handful of weeks ago, Giambruno gave the impression of being a devoted partner and worked as a television journalist for a programme airing on Berlusconi-founded giant Mediaset. But what came in the way?

On 18 October, another Mediaset TV show, the satirical Striscia la Notizia, released an off-air clip of Giambruno’s transmission in which the man teased a female colleague, Viviana. “For me, the only judgement that counts is that of Viviana,” he remarked, walking around the studio whilst scratching his crotch. Shortly afterward, he spoke directly to her: “A cultured woman like you – you’re a very intelligent woman – how come I haven’t met you before? Dammit, it’s incredible.”

Even so, the above is little or nothing compared to the off-air Striscia released the next night of Giambruno uttering in an erotic tone to a second lady workmate: “How, love? Do you know that she [yet another woman] and I have an affair? All of Mediaset knows it – now you do, too. But we’re searching for a third participant… Do you want to become part of our work group?”

On the morning of 20 October, Meloni responded bluntly via a post on her social media accounts: “My relationship with Andrea Giambruno, which lasted almost a decade, ends here.” And so Giambruno neglected the role of Italy’s first “First Gentleman.” 

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The warm photo accompanying Meloni’s cold post.

Previously, it has been pointed out that Meloni, a staunch traditionalist in principle, has not been perfectly conforming to her, and God’s, values in practice by having a child outside of marriage. Naturally, now that Ginevra’s father is not even her boyfriend anymore, accusations of hypocrisy are being thrown at Meloni more than ever. In left-leaning comedian Maurizio Crozza’s Fratelli di Crozza – every Friday night, all Italians with a TV can watch this performance of his, in which he mocks the Government, among other Italian matters, simply by pressing “9” on their remote controller – he played with the Meloni-adopted motto “Dio, Patria e Famiglia” (“God, Fatherland, and Family”), saying that “it’s fine – Meloni still has God and Fatherland, 2 out of 3.” 

Nonetheless, simultaneously, Meloni has been praised left and right for breaking up with Giambruno as her act was considered respectable – the right thing to do. At the end of the day, Meloni limited the damage through her post, arguably even managing to divert the unexpected occurrence in her favour, portraying herself as an Italian “Iron Lady.” In the postscript, she wrote, “To all those who have hoped to weaken me by striking at my home: remember that no matter how much the droplet can dig the rock, the rock stays a rock, and the droplet remains solely water.” Eminently, like Margaret Thatcher before her, Meloni has the reputation of an adamant, determined woman – an iron rock. 

One of the issues Meloni has stubbornly, and consistently, spoken up against is the ongoing European migrant influx. Nevertheless, according to her Government’s data, there has actually been a rise in the number of migrants disembarking by boat on Italy’s shores since Meloni’s inauguration. The official data revealed that over 150.000 migrants arrived in the course of the first 11 months of 2023, relative to the approximately 90.000 of the identical period in 2022, a stark 170 % increase. The people have started noticing the contradiction between Meloni’s promises and reality. 

However, on 6 November, Meloni took a step toward alleviating the problem through a pact signed with a leftist “friend,” Albanian PM Edi Rama. The plan allows the construction of 2 migrant centres in northwestern Albania at Italy’s expense where Italian jurisdiction will be implemented, though patrolling will be carried out by Albanian policemen. The deal states that male migrants recovered at sea by the Italian navy will be transported to the Albanian centres instead of being brought to the island of Lampedusa or other Italian hotspots. 

The crammed Lampedusa, the southernmost territory in Italy, is the point of entry into the European Union (EU) for numerous migrants undergoing the Mediterranean Sea Route. The Albanian centres could collectively house 3.000 migrants per month, relieving some of the pressure off of Lampedusa. 

Throughout the migrants’ stay in Albania, their legal status – whether they are qualified to seek asylum or, on the other hand, are to be repatriated – will be assessed. Meloni is hoping the agreement will come into effect in the springtime. 

On 13 December, Meloni encountered an obstacle in her race against time – appeals from the Albanian Opposition interpreting the protocol as unconstitutional and violative of international law have been endorsed by Albania’s Constitutional Court, thereby automatically suspending its ratification by Parliament. This January, the Court will hold a hearing to determine whether or not the treaty conforms to Albanian principles. 

Even if the Court judges that the entente is unconstitutional this month, Meloni will find consolation in the fact that either way, Albania’s proposed help is not decisive in defining Italy’s fate with regard to the migration question. As Rama put it in his fluent Italian at the press conference in Rome, the realisation of the scheme would merely provide Italy with “an extra pinch of breathing space,” nothing more. “Admittedly, we do not have the ability, the capacity, to be the solution.”

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The Mediterranean Sea Route according to National Geographic.

Meloni is famous for being critical of the EU’s (mis)handling of the contemporary migration crisis. So, Meloni searched for a little bit of fortune elsewhere, eastward. And she looked in the right direction. Yes, Rama affirmed to the media that “if Italy calls, Albania responds.” Rama continued: “I think we owe a duty [that, note, ‘can’t be repaid’] to Italy…for what it has done for us from the first day we’ve arrived on the other side of the [Adriatic] Sea to find refuge, escape from Hell, and be able to envisage a brighter future,” referring to the Albanian migration waves to Italy following the fall of communism. Moreover, Italy still enjoys a modest sphere of influence in the Balkans, an influence that proved to be far from exclusive to its short-lived fascist protectorates, persisting to a reasonable extent after the termination of World War II, not the least in Albania. 

Ergo, Albania’s Italophilia prevailed over the supposed ideological dissimilarities between Rama and Meloni. Rama summarised: “We wouldn’t have made this accord with any other EU member state. With all due respect, there’s an important difference [between Italy and other EU countries] of historical, cultural, and even purely emotional nature which ties Albania and Albanians to Italy.” 

Meloni utilised mindful diplomatic manoeuvres over the past months in order to guarantee Rama’s seduction. Back in August, she briefly visited Albania. Even though Giambruno and Ginevra joined, the principal purpose of her stay was not a beach holiday but a diplomatic mission. Rama idyllically confirmed this: “All was born when Giorgia was supposed to be on vacation in Albania, but evidently, the news of the migrant landings in Italy did not let her rest serenely ashore.” During the same voyage, Meloni notably reimbursed a restaurant after some Italians touring Albania had escaped before paying the bill. 

Furthermore, Meloni tactfully highlighted Italy’s pro-Albanian stance regarding the latter’s potential EU membership: “I’m proud of the fact that Italy, historically, has been one of the greatest EU supporters of the ingress of Albania and the rest of the Western Balkans into the Union.” She insisted that the EU “collaborate especially with these non-EU Nations that are European [‘in all intents and purposes’]” to make their dream of accession come true. Meloni also added that Albania “is behaving exactly as if it were already in the EU.” In turn, somewhat paradoxically, Rama backed Meloni’s soft Eurosceptic sentiments, sarcastically admitting that “when it’s time to manage migration as a Union, we know well how things bode…” Rama even quipped that “it would be unimaginable for us Albanians now to say ‘let’s see,’ to turn our head the other way, to pretend to be searching for a solution – when, perhaps, we will become part of the EU we will learn how to do this,” inducing Meloni to a genuine chuckle.

Albania and the Western Balkans are not the sole regions of the East the Meloni-led government has been flirting with lately. An audio from September was leaked in which Meloni gets across as less pro-Ukraine – hence more pro-Russia – than the mainstream, which, in this case, she has been quick to adhere to in front of cameras. But how was this information revealed if Meloni was so careful? 

In an attempt to gather secrets on the subject, Russian comic duo Vovan and Lexus dialled Meloni’s telephone number, one of them impersonating the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki, whom she had seen recently, and conversing with Meloni for more than 13 minutes – the PM was pranked. 

Firstly, the Russians warmed Meloni up to the game by accommodating her views on migration, agreeing with her opinion that “the size of this phenomenon is something that involves not only the EU but the United Nations.” And then they struck. Almost a dozen minutes into the chat, they asked her: “How do you estimate the conflict in Europe between Ukraine and Russia – how long will it take?” Meloni sighed and opted for the following reply: “Well, I see there’s a lot of fatigue, I’ve to say the truth, from all sides. We near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out. The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both without destroying international law. I’ve got ideas on how to manage the situation, but I’m waiting for the right moment to put them on the table [perhaps Donald Trump’s reelection].” Once having interrogated Meloni on the conflict, the pranksters hung up hurriedly.  

Meloni’s comment challenges the most conventional Western rhetoric – that the war must end in Ukrainian victory. In another regular Friday monologue, Crozza joked before his audience: “Apparently, Meloni’s staff at Palazzo Chigi [the seat of the Italian Government] didn’t check well the source of the call – they saw an unknown number and said ‘OK, it’s not Giambruno, let’s pass this on to her.’” Additionally, he criticised Meloni’s lack of recognition of the blatant Russian accent: “The staff [and herself] didn’t even notice that the African [Chadian] talked like a Russian spy. Have you heard? It seemed like a James Bond film. [He proceeds to imitate a thick Russian accent.] A typical Swahili accent…” Lastly, Crozza demanded Meloni step down as PM: “Objectively, subsequent to the gaffe with the comedians, today Meloni should resign.”

FdI and Matteo Salvini’s Lega, Meloni’s main coalition partner, are now firmly Atlanticist in theory but have Russophile branches and have openly dallied with Vladimir Putin prior to the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War. In addition, Berlusconi, the historic “Cavaliere” (“Knight”) of Forza Italia, the third major party in Government, had been defined by Putin as “first among his 5 true friends” mere months ahead of his death in June. 

Finally, in the merry days leading to Christmas, Meloni threw her end-of-year party, Atreju. Giambruno and Rama were called, the Russians no. The wealthiest man on the planet, Elon Musk, attended the festival as well. Other star guests included PM of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, Italian national team coach Luciano Spalletti, and boss of Spaniard party Vox Santiago Abascal.

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Musk presented himself with one of his 10 children to discuss natality in his Atreju interview

Besides her friends, Meloni customarily invited some key figures of the Opposition. Nowadays, Meloni’s primary political enemy in Italy – at least on paper – is another she, Elly Schlein of the “woke” Partito Democratico (Democratic Party). But, unlike past rivals of the Italian right, Schlein refused Meloni’s invitation. In her speech, reserved as the grande finale of the 4-day-long 2023 edition, Meloni, half nostalgically and half gladly, attacked Schlein, pronouncing that she “could make a list of the individuals of the left who paraded on this stand in 25 years of the manifestation to demonstrate that – let us speak the truth – the healthy, proud communists of once upon a time no longer exist.”

In sum, much drama for nothing, one could say. FdI is still comfortably leading the polls at 29-30 %, a figure they have very much stably maintained – since autumn 2022. As was motivationally voiced in preparation for Meloni’s entrance on stage at one of her electoral campaign rallies in 2022, “The day of defeat will come, but not today.” Indeed, it is already January, but Meloni’s autumn, let alone winter, has not yet begun.

Marcello Pagani
Marcello Pagani
Second-year Law and International Relations student in Segovia. Fluent in English and Italian. Born in Boston, U.S.A., to parents from Milan, who had just moved from Italy. Lived in Munich, Germany and London, U.K.

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