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Italy's Draghi Urges Unity, Sacrifice in Fighting the Virus

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi addresses the Senate in Rome, Feb. 17, 2021, before submitting his government to a vote of confidence.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi urged Italy’s polarized politicians to unite behind his new government to confront the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought, saying Italy has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a more sustainable, equitable and healthy world for future generations.

Draghi vowed an environmentally conscious and digitally reformed government program in a 50-minute speech Wednesday before the Senate, which came ahead of a mandatory confidence vote later in the day. Draghi is expected to win votes in both the Senate and lower Chamber of Deputies after securing broad-based support for his government.

“Today unity isn’t a emotion, it’s a duty,“ Draghi said to applause as he concluded his speech. “A duty guided by what unites us all: love of Italy.”

Draghi, the former European central bank chief who is widely credited with having saved the euro, vowed a similar all-out effort to do whatever it takes to emerge from the pandemic, which first erupted in Italy this time last year. He said the principle aim of his administration was to confront the pandemic and safeguard Italians “with all means," and urged politicians to put aside their political interests in a spirit of sacrifice for future generations.

Draghi’s government was sworn in over the weekend, capping a remarkable few weeks that saw the widely popular Premier Giuseppe Conte resign after a key ally yanked his support. After efforts to forge a third Conte government failed, President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi, 73, to form a high-profile, non-political government.

Draghi’s 23-member cabinet includes politicians in most ministries but puts technical experts in key roles, especially those responsible for ensuring that the more than 200 billion euros ($240 billion) in European Union pandemic recovery funds that Italy expects to receive are spent according to EU criteria, such as for ecological and digital transformations.

Draghi said his government would be “convincingly” pro-EU and pro-U.S., saying he envisaged in particular reinforcing bilateral relations with France and Germany.