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ELECTION

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella sworn in for second term

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella was sworn in on Thursday for a new seven-year term after being re-elected on Saturday.

President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale palace following his swearing-in ceremony in Rome.
President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale palace following his swearing-in ceremony in Rome on February 3rd, 2022. Photo: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP

“This is a fresh, unexpected call for a commitment which I cannot – and will not – back away from,” the 80-year-old said, stressing the challenges Italy faces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

His inauguration in parliament was marked by wild bursts of applause from lawmakers, who re-elected him by a large majority in the eighth round of voting after parties failed to agree on any other candidate.

The only other serious contender for the job – Prime Minister Mario Draghi – was needed at the head of government to keep Rome on track with major reforms to the tax and justice systems and public sector.

Mattarella said he stepped up to end the “profound political uncertainty and tensions” which could have “jeopardised… the prospects for relaunching” the Italian economy.

PROFILE: President Mattarella, the reluctant hero in Italy’s crisis

These have been “troubled times for everyone, including me,” he told the lower Chamber of Deputies, which was decked out in red drapes and 21 vast Italian flags.

The cannons on the Gianicolo hill overlooking Rome fired a 21-gun salute and the bronze bell at the lower house rang out as Mattarella took the oath.

President Sergio Mattarella arrives at the Quirinale palace in his Lancia Flaminia 335 following his swearing-in ceremony. Photo: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP

In his speech, Mattarella sounded a warning note over geopolitical tensions, urging a “more just, more modern Italy” to be “intensely linked to the friendly peoples that surround us”.

“We cannot accept that… the wind of confrontation is once again rising in a continent that has known the tragedies of the First and Second World Wars,” he said in a nod to fears that Russia might invade Ukraine.

He called those present to increase efforts to rebuild Italy after the devastation of Covid-19, which hit the country hard and has killed over 147,000 people.

Mattarella’s re-election on Saturday was hailed as having temporarily averted a political disaster but it also laid bare deep fractures within the ruling broad coalition government.

Draghi, brought in by Mattarella last year, has been racing to ensure Italy qualifies for funds from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery scheme amounting to almost 200 billion euros ($225 billion).

The deadlock over the presidential candidate risked derailing those reforms, and fears remain that one or another of the parties in the coalition could pull out causing the government to implode.

The presidential post in Italy is largely a ceremonial job, but it plays a key role during a political crisis, and experts said Mattarella looked set to have his work cut out.

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ENERGY

Italy’s Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian PM Mario Draghi condemned Germany’s €200-billion energy-prices shield, saying EU ‘must act together’.

Italy's Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his likely successor have criticised Germany’s 200-billion move to shield its citizens from rising energy prices, saying Europe must act together to tackle the energy crisis.

“Faced with the common threats of our times, we cannot divide ourselves according to the amount of room in our national budgets,” Draghi said in a press release on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Italy to rise by 59 percent, warns power regulator

The statement came after Germany introduced a 200-billion ($194-billion) shield to protect households and businesses from soaring energy prices, 

The measure was Germany’s move in what the country’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner described as an “energy war over prosperity and freedom” with Russia.

“The energy crisis requires a response from Europe to reduce costs for families and businesses, to limit exceptional gains made by producers and importers, […] and to keep Europe united once against in the face of an emergency,” Draghi said, commenting on Germany’s move.

At a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Friday, Italy’s Roberto Cingolani reiterated Rome’s support for an EU-wide cap on the price of gas – something Draghi has long been calling for.

“Everyone has recognised that there is a priority at the moment, which is to bring down the cost of gas. But there is also a second priority, [that is] to avoid creating a shortage of gas in doing so,” Cingolani said.

READ ALSO: Portofino mayor offers residents €400 to offset energy bills

Draghi will only be in office for a few more weeks, after which he will likely be replaced by Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party triumphed at last Sunday’s elections.

Like Draghi, Meloni has backed the idea of a European price cap thus far. 

Ahead of Friday’s energy meeting in Brussels, the soon-to-be new Italian PM also appeared to criticise Germany as she called for “an immediate European response” to the energy crisis.

“No member state can offer effective and long-term solutions on its own in the absence of a common strategy, not even those that appear less financially vulnerable,” she added.

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