ROME, 19 February (BelTA - China Daily) - Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Draghi has prioritized COVID-19 vaccine distribution and promised sweeping reforms to revitalize the nation's battered economy in his first speech to parliament.
Ahead of a confidence vote he easily won, the former European Central Bank chief said his government would be more sustainable, environmentally conscious, staunchly pro-European and oriented toward technological and digital reforms, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Draghi said Italy, which is the European Union's third-largest economy, was in its worst recession since World War II, and that policy aimed at boosting economic growth would be promptly enacted. He said this would include overhauling the public administration, taxation and justice systems.
"Today we have, as did the governments of the immediate post-war period, the possibility, or rather the responsibility, to launch a new reconstruction," Draghi told the Senate.
His government of national unity was formed at the request of Italian President Sergio Mattarella to steer the nation through the health and economic crises. It replaces the previous coalition that folded amid differences over recovery plans.
News site Politico noted that Draghi takes power with the largest majority since World War II, "with support from parties ranging from the leftist Free and Equal Party to the far-right League".
League leader Matteo Salvini, an opponent of European integration, said his party was willing to cooperate, for now.
'Unity is a duty'
In his speech, Draghi called on Italy's "polarized politicians" to pull together to help rebuild the country."Today unity isn't an option, it's a duty," he said.
His cabinet would seek greater EU integration, Draghi said. "Supporting this government means sharing the view that the decision on the euro is irreversible, sharing the vision of an increasingly integrated European Union, moving toward a common budget capable of supporting countries in times of recession," he said.
He pledged to speed up the country's novel coronavirus vaccination program, saying the government's first duty was to "fight the pandemic by all means and safeguard the lives of citizens".
Italy has recorded more than 94,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second-highest toll in Europe after the United Kingdom.
There would also be focus on plans for how to spend more than $240 billion of EU funds aimed at rebuilding the economy, he said.
Reuters said technocrat Draghi is among Europe's "most respected figures" after his eight-year leadership of the ECB. It noted that his nomination as prime minister has been "hailed by investors", as reflected in Italian bond sales on Tuesday that drew "record demand".