Italy’s new populist leaders commemorated the founding of the Italian republic by attending a pomp-filled military parade Saturday — and then promised to get to work creating jobs and expelling migrants.
“The free ride is over,” League leader Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new interior minister, warned migrants at a rally in northern Italy. “It’s time to pack your bags.”
The pledge of mass deportations to come was a reminder that Italy has a staunchly anti-immigrant, right-wing party in its governing coalition — and that the European Union will face a whole new partner governing its fourth-largest economy.
Earlier, Salvini joined Premier Giuseppe Conte and the rest of the newly sworn-in Cabinet to view the Republic Day parade. Italy’s aeronautic acrobatic squad flew low and loud over downtown Rome trailing smoke in the red, white and green of the Italian flag.
The national pride on display is a feature of every Republic Day, but it took on a particular significance this year after Italy on Friday ended three months of political and financial turmoil and swore in a government whose populist and euroskeptic leanings have alarmed Europe.
Conte, a law professor plucked from relative obscurity to head an unlikely governing alliance of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and League, said the celebrations Saturday transcended all the tensions of recent days.
“It’s the celebration for all of us, of our republic,” he said.
Conte’s Cabinet was sworn in after a last-minute deal averted the threat of a new election that could have turned into a referendum on whether Italy stayed with the shared European euro currency. The political stability relieved financial markets on Friday but Italy’s European neighbors continued to express concerns about the euroskeptic bent and the heavy spending agenda of Italy’s new government.
“Italy is destroying itself — and dragging down Europe with it,” read the headline of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the cover of which featured a forkful of spaghetti with one dangling strand tied up as a noose.
While Spiegel is known for such provocations, another Spiegel article last week drew an official protest from Italy’s ambassador to Germany.
On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Conte and invited him to visit soon. Merkel’s office said both leaders emphasized the importance of continued close bilateral cooperation.
Conte has so far left policy specifics to the drivers of his improbable rise, his two deputies: Salvini and 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio.
Conte’s government faces mandatory confidence votes next week in parliament, where the two governing parties have a slim majority.
The political upheaval that has created western Europe’s first populist government this week has been dubbed the start of Italy’s Third Republic.