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PM Draghi’s address to the Senate ahead of the European Council Meeting on 23 and 24 June

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

[The following video is available in Italian with English subtitles]

President Casellati,
Honourable Senators,

The European Council meeting on 23 and 24 June will discuss the following: 

  • developments in the war in Ukraine and Europe’s support for Kyiv; 
  • the consequences of the conflict in humanitarian terms and with regard to food, energy and security; 
  • aid for households and businesses affected by the crisis; 
  • EU enlargement prospects; 
  • follow up on the Conference on the Future of Europe.

We are approaching the fourth month since Russia first invaded Ukraine, on 24 February. Moscow continues its military attacks on Ukrainian cities, in an attempt to extend its territorial control and strengthen its position.
There is particularly fierce fighting in Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region. The Russian bombing of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second most populated city, has further added to the already terrible toll of dead and injured. According to the United Nations, as of 20 June, 4,569 civilians have died and 5,691 have been injured, but the actual figures are probably much higher.
New atrocities against civilians continue to emerge, committed by the Russian army. Responsibility will be ascertained and war crimes will be punished.
The number of people fleeing the conflict also continues to increase. In Italy alone, more than 135,000 Ukrainian citizens have arrived since the start of the invasion.

I wish to once again express my gratitude to the Italians who have welcomed them.

Italy’s strategy, in agreement with the European Union and our G7 allies, moves on two fronts: we are supporting Ukraine and we are imposing sanctions on Russia, so that Moscow ceases hostilities and accepts to effectively take a seat at the negotiating table.
During my recent visit to Kyiv, together with German Chancellor Scholz, French President Macron and Romanian President Iohannis, I saw first-hand the devastation caused by the war and the Ukrainians’ determination in defending their country.
We went to Kyiv to show, in person, that our countries and the European Union are determined to help a European population in its fight to defend its democracy and freedom. 
During our visit, President Zelensky asked us to continue supporting Ukraine in order to be able to reach a peace that respects their rights and their desires.
Peace can only be truly lasting if it is agreed upon, not imposed. 
An army violently subjugating and repressing a population does not lead to peace, but merely prolongs the conflict – perhaps by other means, certainly with more destruction.
The Italian Government, together with European Union and G7 partners, intends to continue to support Ukraine, as this Parliament has given us a mandate to do.

Our support for Kyiv is also a commitment to help rebuild the country.
This was discussed at the special European Council meeting on 30 and 31 May, and the conclusions of the next European Council meeting will reaffirm this commitment. 
This is not something that individual countries can deal with alone; collective efforts are needed and must also involve international organisations and development banks, first and foremost the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
We want to rebuild to give a home to families who have lost their own, to get children back in school, to help Ukraine’s economic and social life to recover.
Today, it is up to all of us to help with Ukraine’s revival.
In Kyiv, I reaffirmed that Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union and wants it to have candidate country status.
The Italian Government was one of the first to support this position, clearly and with conviction, in Europe and in the West. Unless I am mistaken, the first time I stated this was right here, in this Parliament.
We will continue to do so in all international fora, starting with the next European Council meeting.

I am aware that not all member states share this position today, but the European Commission’s recommendation is an encouraging sign and I am confident that the European Council can come to a consensus on this.
The majority of countries near to Russia, large and small, are now looking to the European Union for security, for peace, for stability.
The road from candidate country to member state is long, due to the demanding structural reforms required. However, the EU must immediately send a clear and courageous signal.
Among other things, countries are now able to push forward with these structural reforms quicker than in the past.

On 3 June, the European Council adopted its sixth package of sanctions against Russia. 
An embargo on all oil and oil products imported into Europe via sea has been introduced, with effect from the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 respectively.
European operators will no longer be able to insure and finance the transportation of oil to third countries.
Another three Russian banks have been excluded from the Swift system, including the largest in the country, Sberbank, together with a Belarusian bank. 
More goods have been added to the list of those subject to the export ban, including chemical products that may be used for war-related purposes.
An additional 18 Russian entities have been sanctioned, together with another 65 individuals, including the person considered responsible for the horrors in Bucha.
Broadcasting has been suspended in Europe for another three Russian state media outlets that spread propaganda. 
Sanctions work. The International Monetary Fund predicts that, this year, the cost inflicted on the Russian economy will be equal to 8.5% of GDP. 
Time has shown, and is continuing to show, that these measures are increasingly efficient.

However, I wish to once again stress that our channels of dialogue remain open. We will not stop supporting diplomacy and seeking peace - a peace under the terms to be chosen by Ukraine.
Also during my conversations with President Putin, I reiterated, several times, the need to put an end to the aggression and talk about peace, and to concretely define the relative terms and time frames.  

During the European Council meeting, the European Union enlargement process to include the Western Balkans will also be discussed. The Italian Government is in favour of beginning accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
During the discussion, which will begin at this European Council meeting, President Macron will also present his commitment for a European Political Community. As the French President has already clarified, this project will not be a replacement for candidate country status.
The European Council meeting at the end of this month represents an opportunity to begin to look to the future structure of the European Union, its borders, its security, its economic development. 
The European Commission’s positive assessment of Croatia adopting the euro in 2023 is an excellent sign, which Italy of course welcomes.

Over the last decades, European Union enlargement has brought peace and stability to war-scarred countries.
Enlargement has transformed the European Union into the world’s largest single market, which represents 5-6% of the population and approximately one sixth of global GDP. It has created new cooperation opportunities between countries in areas of fundamental importance: in the fields of energy, transport, food security, health, education and work. 
In Member States, it has stimulated the development of a functioning market economy and has supported a reform process, right from the application for EU membership. 
It has extended rights and protection, workplace rights and protection that are still missing in other parts of the world.
It has provided a powerful incentive to develop democratic life and to respect human dignity and the rule of law. 
As stated in the Treaty on European Union, any European State which respects these values and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. Adherence to these principles is not a secondary consideration; it forms the basis of the European project. 

Enlargement of the European Union will also certainly involve an in-depth reflection on the rules governing how it works – regarding foreign policy, security, economic policy, social policy.
An intergovernmental conference should be called as soon as possible to discuss how to address this challenge.

The Conference on the Future of Europe, which came to a close in May, has also provided important impetus for change. The proposals made by European citizens, especially by young people, as part of this initiative refer to issues that are very important indeed for the future of the Union, from climate change to the rule of law, and they deserve to be carefully examined. 

The ongoing conflict risks creating a humanitarian crisis of extraordinary dimensions. Grain supplies to the world’s poorest countries are at risk. Already now, blocked ports mean that millions of tonnes of grain from the previous harvest are stuck and at risk of rotting. The devastation caused by the war will only worsen this situation in the months to come. Recent Russian bombings have destroyed the warehouse at one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural terminals, in the port of Mykolaiv; according to the Ukrainian authorities, this contained between 250 and 300 thousand tonnes of grain.
Ukraine estimates that grain production could drop by between 40% and 50% compared with last year. We must free up the stocks currently in warehouses in order to unblock supplies to recipient countries and make room for the new harvest that will arrive in September.

In the immediate future, it is necessary to demine the ports and ensure that ships can leave safely. After a number of failed attempts, I can see no alternative to a United Nations resolution that defines the time frames for this operation and ensures that it is carried out under UN auspices.
The European Union, at both G7 and bilateral level, has implemented large-scale cooperation efforts to help the most vulnerable countries.

Over the last few days, Russia has cut gas supplies to Europe, including to Italy.
Since the war first broke out, our government – this government – has moved quickly to find alternative supplies to Russian gas. We have signed important agreements with a number of supplier countries, from Algeria to Azerbaijan, and we have promoted new investments also in renewables. Thanks to these measures, we will be able to significantly reduce our dependence on Russian gas already from next year.

In Europe, the energy price trend underlies the soaring inflation rates of the last few months. In Italy, inflation reached 7.3% in May, although core inflation – which excludes energy and food – is less than half. To curb the general rise in prices and protect citizens’ purchasing power, it is essential to also take action – and here, I would like to stress ‘also’ because there are a number of areas where action can be taken, not limited to this one – at the source of the problem and limit gas and energy price increases.
Governments have the tools to do this. The solution we have been proposing for a number of months now is to introduce a price cap on Russian gas, which would also allow us to reduce financial flows to Moscow. The European Council gave the Commission a mandate to explore the possibility of introducing a control, a cap on prices. This measure has become even more urgent given the fact that Moscow has now reduced supplies. There are lower supplies and higher prices, Moscow is still cashing in the same amount and the difficulties being faced by Europe are increasing dramatically.

Europe must act quickly and decisively to protect its citizens against the effects of the crisis triggered by the war. Since last year, Italy has earmarked approximately EUR 30 billion in aid to help households and businesses. Some of these measures have been financed using an exceptional contribution from large energy companies that have made huge profits thanks to the price increases. This measure has allowed us to call upon the companies that have benefited from exceptional price rises to share the costs being borne by the whole of society. This choice was made based on a principle of solidarity and responsibility.

Italy will continue to work with the European Union and our G7 partners to support Ukraine, seek peace and overcome this crisis.

This is the mandate the Government received from Parliament, from you. This is what guides our actions. 

Thank you.

[Courtesy translation]