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Italy: Mario Draghi presents policy goals

February 17, 2021

New Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is outlining the policy priorities of his new national unity government in a speech to the Senate. He then faces a confidence vote in the chamber.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrives at Quirinale Presidential Palace, before being sworn in
Draghi has not made any extensive comments to the public since he was sworn in Image: Remo Casilli/REUTERS

New Italian premier Mario Draghi on Wednesday gave details of his strategy to end a period of political crisis.

The Senate speech had been hotly anticipated, with Draghi having said little in public about the objectives of his technocrat government since being sworn into office.

What did he say?

In his maiden speech to parliament, Draghi said Italy would have to rebuild after the pandemic as it did after World War II, as part of a more integrated EU.

"Today we have, as did the governments of the immediate post-war period, the possibility, or rather the responsibility, to start a new reconstruction," he said.

Draghi said his main duty was to "fight the pandemic by all means and to safeguard the lives of our fellow citizens."

People receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as Italy begins vaccinations against the coronavirus disease
As in other European Union nations, the vaccination program in Italy has been slower than was hopedImage: Matteo Bazzi/REUTERS

However, he said his government would also look to reforms aimed at encouraging long-term growth in the eurozone's third-largest economy

"Today, unity is not an option, unity is a duty. But it is a duty guided by what I am sure unites us all: love for Italy," Draghi added.

An early test for the new prime minister

Draghi is facing the vote of confidence in the Senate late Wednesday, with a vote in the larger lower chamber to follow on Thursday.

The former head of the European Central Bank — known as "Super Mario" for his role in saving the euro — is tasked with guiding Italy out of its dual health and economic crises.

The government is expected to be voted through in both chambers, with Draghi having the support of almost all the main political parties.

Draghi has chosen 23 ministers from across the political spectrum, as well as several technocrats to fill key roles.

The confidence votes are the final step that is needed for the government to exercise its full powers.

What is the task facing the government?

The coronavirus shutdown and waves of restrictions caused the economy to shrink by 8.9% last year. More than 420,000 people have lost their jobs. The recession is Italy's worst since World War II.

Along with other European Union nation, Italy has fallen behind in its vaccination program, blaming delivery delays.

Italy is expecting to receive more than 220 billion euros ($267 billion) in EU recovery funds.

Disputes over how to spend the money — whether it should be on longstanding structural reform or short-term stimulus — brought down the previous government.

The virus remains rife in Italy. In one of its last acts, ex-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's cabinet on Friday tightened restrictions in four regions and extended a ban on travel between regions.

A little help from the experts

The 73-year-old economist has no political power base of his own to form a cabinet. He has chosen 15 ministers from parties both within the center-left alliance of Conte and the opposition, as well as some experts from outside the political world.

Luigi Di Maio is set to stay in place as foreign minister and Roberto Speranza will remain health minister.

Marta Cartabia, an expert as president of the Constitutional Court until September 2020, will fill the post of justice minister

A much-discussed Ministry for Ecological Restructuring is also to be led by an expert, physicist Roberto Cingolani.

Meanwhile, the former head of the Italian central bank Daniele Franco, is to occupy the position of finance minister, with the task of helping Draghi secure recovery funds from Brussels.

An Ipsos poll in the Corriere della Sera daily shows that 62 % of Italians support Draghi.

rc/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)