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PM Draghi meets with the press in Washington

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

INTRODUCTION BY PRIME MINISTER MARIO DRAGHI

Good morning everyone.

This meeting is an opportunity for an initial reflection on this visit. First of all, I wish to thank President Biden and all the US administration for this truly wonderful welcome. Yesterday’s meeting with President Biden went very well. President Biden thanked Italy for being a strong partner, a reliable ally, a credible interlocutor. I thanked him for his leadership in this crisis and also for the great cooperation there has been with all allies.

During this meeting, we agreed on the fact that we must continue to support Ukraine and put pressure on Moscow, but also that we must begin to ask ourselves how to build peace. The negotiation process is very difficult, but the first point is how to build this negotiation process. A very important point is that this peace must be the peace that Ukraine wants, not a peace imposed by a certain type of ally or by others.

Speaking with President Biden, I also presented, described, the need to make decisions, measures, to tackle the issue of energy prices and availability. We must not forget that the energy price problem began before the war; it has since intensified but the fundamental thing to remember is that this situation deteriorated in the one and a half years prior to the war. It must therefore be addressed together.

Italy has been very active in reducing dependency on Russian gas, especially looking ahead. With President Biden, I also stressed an issue that we have spoken about many times, i.e., the possibility to cap gas prices. This hypothesis was welcomed, although the US administration is reflecting more on an oil price cap rather than a gas price cap. In any case, we decided we would speak about this together again soon. In all this, we were keen to keep in mind that all initiatives and measures taken regarding gas, and in some other countries regarding oil and even coal, that help to overcome this period of transition, of crisis, must not be to the detriment of investments in renewables. They must not be to the detriment of the ecological transition goals that we have all set ourselves; these goals must remain fixed.

This means – especially for us and probably also for the United States – a very strong increase in investments in renewable energy, because the situation of dependence, of the need to break free from the dependence on gas, is even stronger now than it was a few months ago. As you know, the Italian Government has taken numerous measures to simplify authorisation procedures over the last few weeks. I must say that we will not hesitate to continue along this path and to take other measures if we do not see an increase in investments in renewables. This means not only investment decisions but also actual installations of renewable energy sources.

Lastly, another point discussed with President Biden was the danger of a food crisis, the danger of a humanitarian crisis caused by food shortages; food shortages essentially caused by – perhaps the most important factor – exports of various grains from Ukraine, and also from Russia, being blocked. Exports from Ukraine are blocked because the export ports are blocked by Russian ships. I just heard that Minister Lavrov said they’re blocked because the ports are mined. This may actually be an initial example of dialogue that can be built upon between the two sides in order to save tens of millions of people in the poorest countries. It is clear that, probably, if it is true that there are these mines, then they must obviously be removed and Russia must allow grain-laden ships to leave the ports to reach the world’s poorest.

Thank you.

[Courtesy translation]