Draghi: Seven key quotes from the new Italian PM’s first speech

Italy's new prime minister Mario Draghi on Wednesday morning 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: Seven key quotes from the new Italian PM's first speech
Italy's new prime minister Mario Draghi addressing senators on Wednesday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP

Draghi, former head of the European Central Bank, spoke in the Senate before his government faces a confidence vote later on Wednesday.

PROFILE: Who is new Italian prime minister Mario Draghi?

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.

The full text of Draghi's speech can be found here (in Italian). 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”

READ ALSO: How will Italy's Covid-19 strategy change under the new government?

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.

Member comments

  1. I whole heartily support the actions that “Super Mario” lines up. However, if there are any monies left to spare, an investment – call it infrastructure – in making the internet work – throughout Italy – could for once get Italy an advantage. Working from home will also be relevant after Corona. Today, it is virtually impossible in Italy, but also in other countries like Germany, due to the poor roll out of efficient services. If one could (maybe nationlised, which has only been done in Finland so far) roll out internet to the highest possible standard through out Italy, it would get tremendous gains in efficiency. If one combined this with a huge, and much needed reduction of bureaucracy, Italy might have a chance of getting ahead of the game. This would initially lead to some unemployment, because there is a large number of people in Italy doing little and producing nothing, but long-term it could lead to increase in productivity and growth.

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Will Italy’s Five Star Movement split throw the government into crisis?

After the largest party in Italy's coalition government imploded over the country's response to the Ukraine war, Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Wednesday called for unity. Is another political crisis on the horizon?

Will Italy's Five Star Movement split throw the government into crisis?

Draghi has taken a firm, pro-EU line on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: sending weapons to Kyiv, backing sanctions on Moscow despite Italy’s heavy reliance on Russian gas, and supporting Ukraine’s hopes of joining the European Union.

But there have been rumblings of unease within his coalition government, which burst into the open on Tuesday with a split in parliament’s biggest party, the Five Star Movement.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving the party amid disagreements over how Italy should respond to the Ukraine war.

An estimated 60 lawmakers are following him into his breakaway group, named “Together for the Future” – just over a quarter of Five Star’s MPs.

READ ALSO: Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

The move risks upsetting the fragile balance of power in Draghi’s coalition government, a year before general elections are due and at a difficult time for Italians battling skyrocketing inflation.

A vote on Wednesday suggested parliament still overwhelmingly backs the premier, with the lower Chamber of Deputies approving by 410 to 29 a resolution supporting the Ukraine policy.

The Senate similarly approved it on Tuesday.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“Unity is essential in these moments because the decisions that must be taken are very difficult,” Draghi said before Wednesday’s result, which came one day before an EU summit in Brussels begins.

In an uncharacteristically combative address to deputies, Draghi accused those who disagreed with his policy of effectively calling on Kyiv to surrender.

“There is a fundamental difference between two points of view. One is mine – Ukraine must defend itself, and sanctions and the sending of weapons serve this goal,” Draghi said to applause.

“The other point of view is different. Ukraine must not defend itself, we shouldn’t do sanctions, we shouldn’t send armaments, Russia is too strong, why should we take her on, let Ukraine submit.”

Di Maio had made a similar attack on members of his own party at the weekend, paving the way for Tuesday’s defection.

Five Star leader Giuseppe Conte, the country’s former premier, has argued that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution, warning against getting involved in an escalating arms race.

Conte and Di Maio have been at odds since long before the war, however.

Five Star leader Giuseppe Conte stressed that his party still backed the coalition, saying: “Support for Draghi is not up for discussion.”

Nevertheless, some commentators believe Draghi’s coalition government – involving all main political parties except the far-right Brothers of Italy – will start to splinter ahead of 2023 elections.

The Five Star split is likely to weigh on “the entire political system, starting with Draghi, who is now more shaky than before,” wrote La Stampa columnist Marcello Sorgi.

The defections in Five Star leave the anti-immigration League of Matteo Salvini as the biggest party in parliament, but it too is struggling with waning public support.

Media reports this week suggest this could work in Giorgia Meloni’s favour in the next election – the far-right Brothers of Italy leader is now being touted as potentially becoming the country’s first female prime minister, as her party remains the only one in opposition to Draghi’s coalition.