Watch: Meloni gives Macron a withering look after they clash over abortion

Giorgia Meloni delivered a withering look to Emmanuel Macron as she welcomed him to a G7 dinner on Thursday night after the two leaders clashed over the issue of abortion.

The Italian prime minister gave her French counterpart a distinctly frosty reception during the encounter at the summit in the southern region of Puglia.

She did little to hide her displeasure with the French president after they sharply disagreed over women’s rights to abortion.

The Right-wing coalition led by Ms Meloni, which came to power in 2022, is accused by campaigners of making it more difficult for women to seek abortions as part of a pro-life agenda.

In April, the Italian government sparked controversy after passing legislation which allows pro-life groups into publicly run family planning clinics to persuade women to change their minds about terminating their pregnancies.

Italy objected to an explicit commitment to abortion rights in the final statement from the summit, which is being held in a luxury resort in the countryside of Puglia.

Last year, at a summit in Japan, G7 leaders committed to addressing “access to safe and legal abortion” – but that reference does not appear in the draft of this year’s statement.

Instead, it simply references the 2023 so-called Hiroshima statement.

Mr Macron publicly expressed regret at Italy’s position on abortion, noting the French parliament’s vote earlier this year to enshrine the right in the constitution.

Ms Meloni swiftly hit back by noting that the French leader is facing snap elections following a poor showing in the EU elections, saying it was “profoundly wrong” to use a G7 summit for “campaigning”.

According to the ANSA news agency, she said: “The controversy over the presence or absence of the word abortion in the conclusions is totally specious.”

She said the document would recall the language of the Hiroshima text, “in which we already approved last year the need to guarantee that abortion is ‘safe and legal’”.

The two leaders have clashed before over her hard-line migration policy and have starkly contrasting politics, as well as recent political fortune.

Ms Meloni looked as though she was giving her French counterpart a scornful look as Pope Francis addressed the summit
Ms Meloni looked as though she was giving her French counterpart a scornful look as Pope Francis addressed the summit - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The centrist and pro-EU Mr Macron was humiliated by the Eurosceptic National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s European Parliament elections.

He then called the snap parliamentary election in France in a bid to stop the French flirting with the hard-Right but risks losing control of the National Assembly and becoming a lame-duck president.

Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, which has its roots in a neo-fascist group, scored an overwhelming triumph in the European elections in Italy, vowing to end Brussels overreach.

The Eurosceptic Right-winger’s international stock has never been higher after that victory, which has been crowned by her hosting of the G7 summit.

After the 2023 G7 communique was released circa last year’s leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan, French and Canadian diplomats proposed similar or tougher language for this year’s joint statement.

“All the other countries backed them, but it was a red line for Meloni, so it is absent from the final text,” one diplomat said.

A senior Italian diplomat said that the word “abortion” would not appear in the final communique, but it made clear the G7 still supported the aims of the declaration made in Hiroshima.

“This story has been whipped up and has no substance to it,” said the diplomat.

Pro-abortion protesters demonstrate in the Colosseum in Rome
Pro-abortion protesters demonstrate in the Colosseum in Rome - Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

But a senior US official said that Joe Biden, the US president, had also not wanted the reference to abortion to disappear from the text.

“The president felt very strongly that we needed to have at the very least the language that references what we did in Hiroshima on women’s health and reproductive rights,” the official said.

Meloni is anti-abortion, revealing in a recent autobiography that her mother had come close to aborting her before deciding to keep her child.

In March, France became the first country in the world to explicitly include the right to abortion in its constitution.

Abortion is hugely sensitive in the US. Mr Biden has vowed to create a right to abortion if he wins a second term in November’s election.

The Democrat has warned that his rival Donald Trump could ban abortion nationwide if he wins the race for the White House.