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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni

Guido Calamosca/LaPresse/Sipa USA via Reuters

Italy aims to export migrant crisis to Albania

Can Albania accept migrants deported by Italy? A court in Tirana is deciding on the legality of an agreement with the Italian government, in which Rome can send EU asylum-seekers to the Balkan country.

The Albanian courts technically have until March 6 to make a decision, but their verdict is expected to come sooner because both sides have something important to gain. Under the deal, which has been tacitly endorsed by the EU, up to 36,000 migrants a year would wait in Albania while Italy rules on their asylum claims. In exchange, Italy has pledged to support Albania’s bid to join the EU. Italy would fund and run the migrant facilities, but the land would remain in Albania’s hands.

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Top 10 game changers of 2023

Whether you win or lose, in politics it is still how you play the game that matters. This year, several global players not only played the game, but they changed it in significant and surprising ways. Join us as we revisit some of the most pivotal moments, figures, and trends of the year in geopolitics.

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Meloni during a rally as part of the campaign for general elections.

(Photo by Nicolò Campo/Sipa USA)

How Tolkien’s hobbits got political

What do Italian conservatives and American hippies have in common? A love for The Lord of the Rings. Though JRR Tolkien insisted his books were apolitical, his fantasy epic has fueled movements across the political spectrum and around the world.

Giorgia Meloni, a huge Tolkien fan, became Italy’s first female prime minister and its most conservative since World War II last year. At her final campaign rally, Pino Insegno – the voice of Aragorn in the Italian-dubbed version of “The Lord of the Rings” – introduced her by invoking Middle Earth’s Kingdom of Men with “Sons of Rohan, my brothers, people of Rome … the day of defeat may come, but it is not this day!”

Now, Insegno’s voice can be heard throughout Italy’s new Tolkien exhibit, a €250,000 traveling exhibition funded by Italy's culture ministry and opened by Meloni herself last week in Rome. Meloni, who considers the trilogy sacred texts, said that “Tolkien could say better than us what conservatives believe in.”

Meloni’s tribute to Tolkien is no coincidence. “The Lord of the Rings” has influenced Italy's conservative movement since the fall of Mussolini.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.


Hard Numbers: Lampedusa landings soar, Aussies rally for indigenous rights, Vatican makes Holocaust admission, Brand accused of rape

8,000: European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen traveled to the island of Lampedusa, which lies halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, after Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called for the EU’s assistance with a wave of small boat arrivals there. Over 8,000 migrants have landed on Lampedusa since Friday. For more on how the immigration debate is dividing European governments, see our explainer here.

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Italian PM Giorgia Meloni during a press conference on a visit to Poland.

Attila Husejnow / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Biden and Italy’s Meloni talk China … and Beijing is watching

US President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will have plenty to discuss when they meet at the White House on Thursday, but no topic will be more important to both sides than Italy’s complex relationship with China.

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Meloni to visit the White House

An invitation to the White House is no small feat, and the latest world leader to get one from President Joe Biden is indeed an interesting one: Italian PM Giorgia Meloni.

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends a rally ahead of a regional election in Emilia-Romagna.

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86

On Monday, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's longest-serving prime minister, died at age 86. Il Cavaliere (The Knight) finally succumbed to the chronic leukemia that kept him out of the limelight for the past few months.

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Emergency workers extinguish fire in vehicles at the site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia?s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 9, 2023.

REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

What We’re Watching: Russian air strikes, South African economic squeeze, day of resistance in Israel

Russia pummels Ukraine

On Thursday, Russia launched a wave of early-morning air strikes with missiles and Iranian-made drones on Ukrainian cities, its worst attack targeting civilians in a month. At least six people died, and almost half of Kyiv residents were left without electricity. Meanwhile, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe's largest — was knocked offlinefor the sixth time and is now operating on diesel power. It's unclear why Moscow did this or has waited so long, but perhaps the Russians are running so low on weapons and ammo that it's much harder to carry out coordinated attacks. For their part, Ukrainians living in urban areas have become so accustomed to the barrages that they are hardly intimidated, which is the whole point for Vladimir Putin. On the battlefield, Russia is still struggling to conquer Bakhmut, a key town in eastern Ukraine, amid an ongoing rift between the Russian military and top mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin.

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