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EU MED 9, Prime Minister Draghi’s statement

Friday, 17 September 2021

President of the Council of Ministers Mario Draghi’s statement during the leaders’ joint declarations at the EU MED 9 summit in Athens.

[The following video is available in Italian only]

First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister Mītsotakīs for organising this summit and for his warm welcome this morning.

I would also like to welcome the Prime Minister of Croatia and the Prime Minister of Slovenia. Our group will now no longer be called the MED7, but the MED9.

Italy is in favour of further expanding the group to include all Mediterranean countries.

The first issue we discussed during the summit was climate change.

Before speaking about this, I wish to express my solidarity with Prime Minister Mītsotakīs regarding this summer’s awful wildfires. These fires were experienced from Turkey to Portugal, serving as a clear lesson that we need to move ahead quickly and decisively in the fight against climate change.  

Reports by the United Nations cite dozens upon dozens of such examples, showing just how necessary it is to take resolute and determined action.

Basically, this whole experience teaches us that the transformation really is huge, and that we are running out of time. We cannot postpone or delay action, because doing so would be at an immense cost to our countries and people, citizens. 

However, we must also bear in mind that a transition on such a large scale and with such rapid time frames also entails huge economic and social costs.

In this regard, we are facing a choice, or rather a programme, the elements of which are somewhat difficult to reconcile.

On the one hand, we are determined to push ahead with this transition with the utmost resoluteness, the utmost commitment and the utmost speed. On the other hand, we are just as determined to protect people, especially the most vulnerable, against the social costs that may arise, as we are seeing at the moment with the increase in gas and electricity bills; these costs may be very significant indeed. 

Lastly, we must ask ourselves whether the debt we will accumulate over the coming years will be sustainable.

It is clear that the EU and the European Commission have a crucial role to play in all this, for many reasons. One is the reason I just mentioned, but another refers to the fact that, within the European Union, our countries are at different starting points when it comes to the journey to tackle climate change.
For example, northern countries are less dependent on certain hydrocarbons than southern countries.

Another reason why the Commission, the EU, is of central importance, not only to coordinate this process but also as a key player itself, is its purchasing power.

We learnt this lesson with Covid-19 vaccines and I must say that the European Commission did extraordinarily well during the second phase of the campaign to purchase vaccine doses.

One of the things we talked about was trying to see if this collective purchasing may also be extended to other areas.

We also discussed the rise in gas prices and how some countries have tried to tackle this problem, as well as what action has been taken to protect especially the most vulnerable against these cost increases. 

However, during today’s summit, we also discussed another aspect in which the EU again plays a central role: the European defence dimension.

It is quite clear that the events of recent months have led to, and continue to demand, a substantial review of our international relations.
The only possible conclusion of this review process is that European sovereignty must be strengthened. One of the aspects of this sovereignty is European defence. There has been much discussion on this and, today, I’d say that we have begun to think about organisational aspects in quite an explicit way.

This is only the beginning, and I am sure that this reflection process will continue, keeping us busy over the coming years.

Incidentally, also when it comes to this issue, we do not have time to waste. 

We also discussed the security situation in the Mediterranean, especially in the area closest to us, i.e., North Africa - Libya and Tunisia. The situation is quite unstable, but all countries at this summit have provided assurances that they will contribute to maintaining stability in those countries. 

I shall stop here. Thank you all very much and thanks again to Prime Minister Mītsotakīs.

Thank you.

[Courtesy translation]