Twitter CEO Elon Musk met Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday during his trip to Italy. The two reportedly discussed Italy’s low birthrates as well as the potential dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Here’s a look at what the SpaceX founder and Italian leader talked about and why it matters.
Meeting of the Minds: Musk and Meloni
Musk has said on several occasions that he believes the greatest challenge facing humanity is underpopulation. He raised this concern with Meloni during their Thursday meeting in Rome – and that matters because Italy has experienced a plummeting birthrate since the 2008 financial crisis and currently has a fertility rate of 1.24 births per woman.
In 2020 Italy experienced the lowest amount of births since it was unified into a nation state in 1861. In April of this year Musk warned that “Italy is disappearing!” and said that having kids should be “celebrated” and policies put in place to favor larger families.
The Tesla chief also spoke to Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Tajani about how to move forward in the automotive industry and aerospace, with Tajani saying Italy is “ready to collaborate on the challenges of our time such as cybersecurity.”
Elon’s Euro Trip
Musk stopped in Rome as part of a short European tour planned to help him decide where to build his next Tesla manufactuirng plant. After his time in Rome, Musk spoke Friday in Paris at the Viva Tech conference and met with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Electric Vehicle (EV) industry continues to grow, and Musk is looking for new locations to set up Tesla manufacturing centers. France is taking steps to convince Tesla, as well as Chinese EV manufacturer BYD, to build factories in the country and bring with them much-needed manufacturing jobs. There is precedent for this, too, with Tesla having already built one factory in Berlin, Germany.
“It will be great to have a Tesla factory in France. There has been a lot of effort and energy to make sure this is possible and this can happen,” said France’s Minister of Digital Transition Jean-Noël Barrot.
Various Responses To Musk’s Trip
Musk removed Twitter from the EU’s voluntary “disinformation” regulations back in May – and despite praising Tesla in his most recent comments, Barrot also recently said that Twitter may be banned in the EU because of not complying with the disinformation code.
Musk’s trip was met with varied responses from commentators online. University of Miami Professor Rula Jebreal slammed Musk for an interview he gave to conservative Italian journalist Nicola Porro.
“Surprise, surprise!” Tweeted Jebreal. “Musk gave an interview to Italy’s Tucker Carlson…a far-right propagandist who is infamous for his vicious attacks against anyone who criticizes Meloni, and for hosting anti-vax, pro-Putin conspiracy theories.”
Musk gave an interview to Italy’s Tucker Carlson…a far-right propagandist who is infamous for his vicious attacks against anyone who criticizes Meloni, and for hosting anti-vax, pro-Putin conspiracy theories. https://t.co/p1KrF5aSUK
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) June 15, 2023
Others had a more favorable reception to Musk’s visit, including journalist Sachin Jose.
“A meeting between two Tolkien fans! Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Elon Musk. Decreasing birth rates were one of the topics of their discussion. Meloni is one among the few Western leaders who have expressed concern over birth rate decrease while Elon Musk, who often laments on the issue once said that ‘population collapse due to low birth rates is a much bigger risk to civilization than global warming.’”
A meeting between two Tolkien fans!
Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and @elonmusk
Decreasing birth rates were one of the topics of their discussion. Meloni is one among the few Western leaders who have expressed concern over birth rate decrease while Elon Musk, who… pic.twitter.com/TOLGwXFulD
— Sachin Jose (@Sachinettiyil) June 15, 2023
Musk knows his trip will raise some eyebrows, but could his decision to sweet talk France be part of an effort to get Twitter out of trouble with EU regulators? We’ll see.
Paul Brian is an author and freelance journalist who has reported for Reuters, BBC and Foreign Policy, and contributed to the Spectator, the Federalist and the American Conservative. He has covered global events from Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East to South America.