Europe, meet Meloni. The office of the Prime Minister released her official schedule for her first trip abroad in her new capacity: Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, to meet with the top officials of the European institutions. She will meet with:
- the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, at 4:00 PM;
- the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at 5:30 PM;
- and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at 6:30 PM.
A pivotal moment. PM Meloni’s trip to Brussels will be especially important for two main reasons. First, it’s her official European “christening” – a defining passage in her institutionalisation process. And second, it will most likely produce some indication regarding her government’s room for manoeuvre on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
- The NRRP is bankrolled by the Next Generation EU fund, and Italy is its biggest beneficiary by far. Ms Meloni and her centre-right coalition have already signalled they intend to renegotiate parts of it, but that requires the other member States’ greenlight – which will be hard to come by and will require massive coordination across the EU.
Flammable matter. Most recently, the NRRP became a flashpoint of the handover from Ms Meloni’s predecessor, Mario Draghi. He assured the country that the plan’s implementation was well underway after she maintained the opposite. Although she later assured there was “no clash” with him, the tension that arose showcased the matter’s sensitivity.
- The funds’ partial disbursements are conditional upon Italy completing the planned reforms, and failing to meet those would endanger the country’s financial stability – not to mention the ripple effects on European unity.
- Given the ongoing crises, it’s abundantly clear that avoiding a collision course with Brussels is useful to Rome and, no less, Ms Meloni herself. Passing the buck might not work; rather, it’s fundamentally more important for her to figure out how to move forward. That only works with EU unity.