By The Abode Team
On Wednesday morning Italy's new prime minister, Mario Draghi, made his first address to the Senate since taking office, outlining plans for managing the pandemic and rebuilding the economy. Here are some of the most notable quotes from his speech. Draghi, former head of the European Central Bank, spoke in the Senate before his government faces a confidence vote later on Wednesday. His address in the morning was the first time he had spoken since becoming PM, other than giving a short acceptance speech after being sworn in on Saturday. He spoke for almost an hour as he appealed for broad political support to face the ongoing crisis, announcing his intention to speed up vaccinations and reform everything from education to healthcare, tax and public administration.
Below we've listed some of the main points he made:
1. Fighting the coronavirus pandemic "with all means".
Draghi stressed that his first priority was fighting the pandemic. "The main duty to which we are all called, starting from me as prime minister, is to fight the pandemic with all means and safeguard the lives of our fellow citizens," he said, adding that the virus was "everybody's enemy". However, he has not yet detailed any plans for further restrictions under the new emergency decree due by March 5th.
2. Vaccinations to be carried out "in every available public and private space".
Draghi has already said that speeding up Italy's vaccination plan is another of his main priorities, and on Wednesday he spoke of expanding the current programme. The vaccine rollout must involve the army, civil protection and volunteer services, he said, adding that "we have a duty to make (vaccines) possible in every available public and private space".
3. "There is no sovereignty in solitude. Without us, there is no EU."
Draghi's speech also stressed Italy's role "as a founding member of the European Union, and as a protagonist of the Atlantic Alliance." "We are a great economic and cultural power," he said. "We have to be prouder, fairer and more generous towards our country. Without Italy there is no Europe." He added that supporting his government meant backing the idea of "an ever more integrated European Union". "Supporting this government means recognising the irreversibility of the choice of the euro," he added.
4. Italy has an "opportunity" for rebuilding and reform.
Draghi said the coronavirus crisis presented an opportunity for Italy to rebuild just 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 opportunity or rather the responsibility to start a new reconstruction," he said. Italy expects to receive more than 200 billion euros from the EU's post-coronavirus recovery fund, and Draghi insists the money will be used for major reforms. "These resources will have to be spent with an aim to improve the growth potential of our economy," Draghi said. He promised reform to Italy's stifling bureaucracy, labyrinthine tax code and snail-paced justice system, as well as a focus on education and closing the gap on female employment.
5. Gender equality must go "beyond the choice between family and work"
Draghi acknowledged that the crisis has hit young people and women particularly hard, as they suffered the brunt of some 450,000 job losses in the past year. The economy shrank by almost nine per cent last year, one of the worst results in the eurozone. He said that closing the gender gap at work, particularly in the south of the country, would be key to restructuring. "Italy today has one of the worst wage gaps between genders in Europe, as well as a chronic shortage of women in senior managerial positions," he said. Gender equality means “rebalancing of the wage gap and welfare system, beyond the choice between family and work," he said.
6. "We want to leave a good planet, not just a good currency."
Draghi, a practicing Catholic, quoted Pope Francis in saying 'Natural tragedies are the earth's response to our mistreatment", as he spoke of his intentions to create a more sustainable economy. He sad "the economic policy response to climate change and the pandemic" meant that some economic sectors "will have to change, even radically."
7. "Unity is not an option but a duty"
Senators applauded 21 times during the speech, but the longest applause came when Draghi stated that "Today unity is not an option but a duty". "But it is a duty guided by what I am sure unites us all: love for Italy," he said.
After a debate on his programme, the Senate will vote at 10pm on Wednesday on supporting Draghi's government, before another vote in the lower Chamber of Deputies on Thursday. The votes are largely procedural given how many parties support Draghi.