Draghi Blueprint Sees Italy Reconstruction, EU Integration
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged Italians to pull together in a historic effort to rebuild their country, comparing the task ahead to the post-war reconstruction, as he set out an ambitious, firmly pro-European agenda for his new government.
“Today we have the possibility or rather the responsibility to start a new reconstruction, as governments did after World War II,” the former head of the European Central Bank told Rome senators, in his first detailed presentation of his administration’s program.
The newly installed premier, credited with saving the euro in 2012, centered his speech around European integration. On Wednesday evening senators voted in favor of the new government, while lower house lawmakers will vote Thursday evening.
“We must be proud of Italy’s contribution to the growth and development of the European Union,” Draghi said. “Without Italy there is no Europe.” The premier said national states “will remain the reference for citizens” but “they will have to concede national sovereignty to gain a shared sovereignty.”
As premier, Draghi is banking on speeding up Italy’s vaccination campaign to kick-start an economy crippled by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a year of national and regional lockdowns. The pandemic has claimed more than 90,000 lives in a country trapped in the worst recession since World War II, with debt at almost 160% of output.
Draghi’s speech repeatedly focused on the pro-European stamp of his incoming government. European Union funds must be deployed to bolster economic growth across the continent, he said.
Saying his government will be firmly pro-European and Atlanticist, Draghi called the euro “irreversible,” in a warning to the handful of euro-skeptics in some of the parties that have offered support. “Without Italy, there is no Europe,” he said. Draghi also called for an ever-more integrated EU with a common budget capable of supporting countries in periods of recession. The speech was greeted with a standing ovation from most lawmakers.
On an migration, a crucial theme for Matteo Salvini’s League, Draghi backed in remarks on Wednesday evening a long-standing proposal by Italy along with several Mediterranean partners including Spain and Greece for “an obligatory mechanism of pro-quota redistribution of migrants” within the EU, which he called “a solidarity measure.”
Draghi focused on speeding up the country’s vaccination campaign as the key to restarting the economy. “Our first challenge is to obtain a sufficient quantity of the new vaccine, distribute it quickly and efficiently,” he said.
The premier also outlined a vast agenda of structural reforms for the country, ranging from gender parity to justice, the depressed south and public administration.
Draghi is set for a broad majority in parliament even if some members of the Five Star Movement, the biggest party in parliament, decide to vote against him or abstain. Five Star has been shaken by divisions among its members, with some holding fast to the party’s roots as a protest movement that railed against bankers and technocrats. Draghi would still have a majority even without any Five Star votes.
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