(CN) — After more than 100 days in office, far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has proven to be anything but the “most dangerous woman in Europe,” as the popular German news magazine Stern described her on the eve of her election win last September.
Instead of dangerous, Meloni, the 46-year-old leader of the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy party, has proven to be remarkably moderate, cautious and even a bit boring – a very nimble politician, in other words.
Meloni has served as the prime minister of Italy's right-wing coalition for slightly more than 100 days and she's done little to spook the European Union's leaders and financial markets.
Indeed, Italy's first female premier has been warmly welcomed in Brussels as she massages away her anti-EU and far-right rhetoric.
“She has proven to be very adaptable,” said Gianfranco Pasquino, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Bologna and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna. “She has proven to be not ideological.”
“She's been very cautious,” said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst at Teneo, a London-based political risk firm. “Internationally, she has done better than expected, but simply because she has not done much at all.”
Meloni's been rewarded for her caution and defying expectations that she'd be difficult to work with, Piccoli said.
On key topics, her government has carried on with the safe EU-approved policies of Italy's previous technocratic government led by Mario Draghi, the highly respected former European Central Bank head who took the reins in 2021 following the collapse of a coalition government.
Meloni has pledged Italy's support for Ukraine, passed a modest national budget and kept warm relations with the EU.
“Given the expectation, it's positive at the end of the day” that she's carried on with Draghi's policies, Piccoli said.
For now at least, she seems to have accepted she can't afford to clash with Brussels even though she's spent her political life railing against mandates emanating from the EU and rejected the bloc's push to become ever more unified and federalist.
Shortly after taking office, she made her first foreign trip to Brussels where she met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She gave assurances of her loyalty to the EU, NATO and the defense of Ukraine.
“She has been helped by the fact that she's very much in favor of Ukraine,” Pasquino said.
During the election campaign, she made supporting Ukraine a central theme, which put her at odds with her two conservative rivals and current coalition partners – business magnate Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League. Both men in the past maintained close relations with the Kremlin.
In part, Meloni can't go against the EU because Italy is slated to receive billions of dollars in funds from massive EU spending programs set up to help member states recover from the coronavirus pandemic, move away from Russian energy sources and bolster green initiatives.
But she's not, of course, entirely abandoned her political roots and there have been constant flashes of her government's far-right tendencies from the moment she took over.
She's pushed to restrict humanitarian ships carrying migrants picked up in the Mediterranean Sea from docking in Italy, a move that opened up a spat with French President Emmanuel Macron, who refused to take in migrants from Italy.
Her government also has sought to crack down on unauthorized “rave parties” and it's pushed to make getting an abortion more difficult.
On these matters, too, Meloni has proven to be flexible. For example, she softened the anti-rave party legislation and chose to not ban humanitarian vessels altogether but rather opted to make their work more difficult by forcing them to dock in ports farther to the north. Meloni accuses the humanitarian vessels that ply the waters off the coast of Libya of encouraging migrants to attempt the Mediterranean crossing in the hope of getting picked up at sea.