Mario Draghi has promised an ambitious reform programme that will “deliver a better and fairer country for our children and grandchildren” in his first speech as leader of Italy’s new national unity government.
Speaking in front of Italian lawmakers on Wednesday Draghi pledged to “take care of those who are suffering now, those who are losing their jobs or forced to close their businesses”, as he said he would mobilise all available resources to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank who was sworn in as Italy’s new prime minister last Saturday, described “the republican spirit” of his new administration that he said “would all fight together. The virus is everyone’s enemy”.
“Today, unity is not an option, unity is a duty. But it is a duty guided by what I am sure unites us all: the love for Italy,” he said. “There has never been, in my long professional life, a moment of such intense emotion and such great responsibility”.
He takes charge as Italy suffers from twin health and economic emergencies that he said had resulted in the largest fall in life expectancy since the second world war, and had inflicted “serious consequences on the economic and social fabric of our country”.
Draghi was earlier this month unexpectedly called on to form a government of national unity by Italy’s president after the country’s last coalition collapsed. His entrance into domestic politics has for now united almost every large Italian political party, with his new government expected to receive an overwhelming majority from lawmakers in a confidence vote later on Wednesday.
In his first speech detailing his political programme Draghi, who has no history in electoral politics, said he would accelerate the country’s vaccine rollout and outlined plans to invest €210bn of EU recovery money, as well as plans for structural reforms of Italy’s legal system and public administration.
He also said that his government would work towards furthering the integration of the EU. “Without Italy there is no Europe. But, outside Europe there is less Italy. There is no sovereignty in solitude,” he said.
“Supporting this government means sharing the irreversibility of the choice of the euro, it means sharing the prospect of an increasingly integrated European Union that will arrive at a common public budget capable of supporting countries in times of recession,” Draghi said.
Outlining how Italy would spend the €210bn from the so-called Next Generation EU recovery programme, Draghi said that his administration would follow the previous government in focusing on digitalisation, ecological transition, research and training, and health.
“In the coming weeks, we will strengthen the strategic dimension of the programme,” he said. “The role of the state and the perimeter of its interventions will have to be carefully assessed. The state’s task is to use the levers of research and development spending, education and training, regulation, incentives and taxation.”
Draghi also said his government would combine the investment of the EU funds with structural reforms and adjustments to Italy’s tax system.
“Some of [the reforms] concern problems that have been open for decades but should not be forgotten. These include the certainty of regulations and public investment plans, factors that limit investment both from Italians and foreigners.”
Draghi also said his new government would be “strongly pro-European and Atlanticist, in line with Italy’s historical anchors”, marking a break with the foreign policy of Giuseppe Conte, the previous prime minister, who had aligned the country more closely with China.
He stressed “the need to better structure and strengthen the strategic and essential relationship with France and Germany” and said “the pandemic has revealed the need to pursue a more intense exchange with partners with whom our economy is more integrated”.