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Prime Minister Draghi’s press conference in Kyiv

Thursday, 16 June 2022

[The following video is available in Italian only]

Gabriele Martelloni (RaiNews24): Prime Minister, in Washington you said that peace talks needed to restart from the unblocking of Ukrainian ports. Today, you met with President Zelensky. What signs were there of this? And what role can Italy play in this?

PM Draghi: “Zelensky is ready. I also spoke with President Putin about this two/three weeks ago. Let me take a step back. What needs to be done is very complex: ensure ships can leave Ukrainian ports, clear Ukrainian ports of mines, have third countries safeguard these ships as they leave so this does not become a pretext for Russian ships to enter and attack Ukraine. A number of countries have offered to carry out some of these tasks. Clearly the only possible solution is a United Nations resolution that ensures this process is carried out under the auspices of the UN, which in a certain sense acts as a guarantee for all parties. It acts as a guarantee for Ukrainians against a surprise attack by Russia; it acts as a guarantee for Russia against the possibility that some of these ships may be carrying arms; it acts as a guarantee that mines will be cleared in accordance with United Nations rules. A UN resolution had been prepared, but was rejected by Russia. This is the current situation. Everyone, first and foremost Secretary General Guterres, is working on this. The United Nations is holding meetings in Moscow in these days; there is a great deal of concern. Today, I tried to understand what the time frames may be: for demining the ports, the response was that at least two weeks may be needed; the new harvest that will need to be stored in the silos, which are currently full, will arrive around September time. How to distribute this grain to the countries most in need also needs to be thought about. This is why one of the things I’ll ask the United Nations Secretary General during the upcoming G7 meeting will be to have a time line, a schedule. However, the impression is that these deadlines are getting closer and the tragedy of global famine, of course concentrated in the poorest countries and in Africa in particular, is drawing nearer. Italy can only play a role under the auspices of the United Nations. The Italian navy’s capabilities in demining ports are well-known. The names of France and Italy have come up for this task, but I don’t think there is room for individual countries, for autonomous national efforts. This will have to happen under the auspices of the United Nations. Moreover, it is time for the role of the United Nations in this whole affair to be rediscovered, as this has been forgotten at the most important, the most crucial, moments”.

Nadia Pietrafitta (LaPresse): Today President Zelensky said that Ukraine needs new, more modern and more powerful weapons. France and Germany have to some extent responded to his appeal already today. Is Italy able to guarantee the same type of commitment, also in view of the resolution by Parliament?

PM Draghi: “President Zelensky did not ask for new weapons. He described the situation as it is. He showed us a situation that is becoming critical because the older weapons, that they have in abundance, are weapons that were produced back in Soviet times, and the ammunition for them is beginning to run short. To use new, more modern weapons, training is needed. The various countries in the Alliance are helping, they are providing this training, but this takes time. President Zelensky did not make any requests today but, like I said at this morning’s brief greeting, we came here together and this shows great unity at European level, because we are three of the founding members of the European Union. Why did we come here? To help Ukraine in the war, because if Ukraine does not manage to defend itself, there can be no peace. We came here to help Ukraine seek peace, but we must keep in mind that, for lasting and sustainable peace, Ukraine must choose. In other words, this country must decide the peace it wants. We also came here to help Ukraine rebuild its future. This is what we talked about, rather than specific commitments regarding supplies or other things. We talked a lot, also during the lunch/dinner just now, about reconstruction, about what to do and how to organise it. We are in the early stages, but I find it encouraging that we are already talking about the future. So, it’s not just hate or war being talked about”.

Andrea Bonini (SkyTg24): Russia has now in effect cut gas supplies also to Italy. I would like to understand how you interpret this move by Russia at this moment in time. Also, do you think things could worsen and, if this is the case, in what ways is this making an already very critical situation even worse?

PM Draghi: “The reasons given for the supply cuts that are affecting more or less all of Europe are technical in nature. There have been a number of explanations, but one is that maintenance on the pipelines, the systems, requires spare parts. These spare parts are not arriving due to the sanctions, so therefore supplies need to be cut. Germany, us and others believe these to be lies. We believe that in actual fact gas is being used politically, just as grain is being used politically. This has consequences, not immediately for consumption but in terms of storage levels. Storage levels were proceeding, at previous prices, quite quickly. We have already reached 52% of stock levels, so a pace that gives us a fair amount of peace of mind for the immediate future and this winter. At these higher prices, stock levels become more difficult. Moreover, with regard to the flow of funds to Russia, it is true that supplies are reducing by 15%, by 30% - different numbers have circulated on different days – but prices have increased by 15-30%. So, supplies have decreased, Europe is in greater difficulty and Russia is cashing in exactly the same amount as before, if not more. This strategy must be addressed and tackled. We will discuss this over the coming days, also at the European Council meeting. In this situation, the gas price cap initiative that Italy proposed – three and a half months ago – is clearly gaining in strength. We will certainly discuss this during the next European Council meeting, in a few days’ time”.

Laurence Figà-Talamanca (Ansa): You have repeated several times over the last few days that the desirable future peace between Russia and Ukraine must be reached under conditions that the Ukrainians deem to be acceptable. I would like to know whether the conditions that the Ukrainians may indeed find acceptable came up during today’s meetings, also from a territorial point of view, and whether you perceived any scope for negotiations to restart.

PM Draghi: “Today, the conditions being laid down by the Ukrainians regard territorial integrity. For Ukraine, this is the precondition for starting peace negotiations. No scope can be seen at the moment. However, a certain stance has changed a lot over recent weeks – the stance of a country, perhaps two, trying to find a road to peace. What I am saying refers to both of them. Peace must be fair and sustainable. Then there is also the stance of all the other countries that want to help the two of them find peace. I am referring to Xi Jinping’s call with Putin. There are talks between China and the United States, talks between Europeans and Putin and Zelensky. So, there is this global diplomatic initiative that wasn’t there a month ago”.

Fausto Biloslavo (Mediaset): The Ukrainians want the Russians to retreat, while the only probable, realistic hypothesis appears to be to ‘freeze’ the positions and then begin negotiations with a ceasefire. Is this realistic? Did you mention this? Did you discuss this? Did you make any hypotheses? Or are we still very far from that?

PM Draghi: “No, we did not speak about that. We said that it must be the Ukrainians to decide what works for Ukraine, what they consider to be a fair and sustainable peace. I don’t think a forced peace, should that even be possible, would be either of those things; that would only generate new conflicts. A war of resistance that goes on for months, years, with yet more destruction – this is what forced peace leads to. I don’t think this is possible, I don’t think this is realistic today”.
Fausto Biloslavo (Mediaset): Regarding a ceasefire agreement?
PM Draghi: “Not at the moment. Or, to put it better, they are ready but there is no willingness on the other side to do it. Remember the telephone conversation I had with Putin three weeks ago, which I have told you about several times. I said, “President Putin, I am calling you because I want to talk about peace”. He insisted that “the time is not right”, “the conditions are not ripe”. That was the situation then and that is also the situation now. There are now many initiatives; let’s hope that some of these will lead to some progress”.

Tonia Mastrobuoni (Repubblica): Since 9 June, when the European Central Bank last met, there has been a lot of concern about the markets’ agitated reaction, which has especially affected Italian securities. The ECB also held an emergency meeting yesterday, to make somewhat of a correction, both regarding communications and to announce this ‘anti-spread’ tool. What is your interpretation of this? Did the ECB make some mistakes? How can this be remedied?

PM Draghi: “I certainly shan’t comment on the ECB’s measures and decisions. I spent eight years defending the autonomy of monetary policy against politicians interfering, and I am certainly not about to change my mind now. There is inflation and, in some countries – that are represented by the governors sitting around that table – it has reached 20%, or 12% or 15%. So, a reaction in terms of increasing interest rates is inevitable. Having said that, the situation in Europe at the moment is different compared with the situation in the United States. In the US, as you will have seen yesterday and today, interest rates have been increased by 0.75% – as decided by the Fed – and this is the highest interest rate hike at any one time to have been made in the last thirty years. This is because inflation in the United States is high, but the economy is at full employment and is performing very strongly indeed. The situation is different here; if we were to define an inflation rate without considering the increases in energy prices and in other raw material prices, we would see an inflation that is much, much lower than in the United States. The pace of adjustment simply must be more gradual here, and it seems to me that this is what the ECB has done”.
Tania Mastrobuoni (Repubblica): This is somewhat contradictory, because Christine Lagarde wrote in the blog that there would be an adjustment of a quarter of a point in July and of a quarter of a point in September, but then she surprised the markets by saying that it would perhaps be half a point.
PM Draghi: “That’s not my job anymore, and I also don’t comment on the markets”.
Tania Mastrobuoni (Repubblica): But this is affecting Italy in particular, what is your interpretation?
PM Draghi: “Higher interest rates affect all countries, not just Italy. The interest rate on bonds has gone up, but this has also gone up in Spain, Portugal, etc. When the ECB announced programmes aimed at containing the fragmentation of monetary policy in Europe, but not at abandoning the objective of moderating inflation, spreads went down. Political comments on what the ECB does are only harmful to those who make them; they are absolutely counterproductive”.

Marco Galluzzo (Corriere della Sera): The united position you have shown here today regarding Ukraine’s EU candidate country status was not a given. Will this decision be confirmed at next week’s European Council meeting? Or is it too early to make a prediction?

PM Draghi: “I am very satisfied with how this meeting went. The three of us, together with Romania, are here; we have shown great unity in supporting Ukraine. We managed to have a common position on proposing that Ukraine immediately be given candidate country status, without having to make it wait for a long time. This is no small achievement. However, the European Council makes decisions on a unanimous basis, and there are many countries that also have different ideas. So, we will see at the next Council meeting. I clearly told Zelensky that we are not in a position to be able to promise that this will be the result; we are able to promise that this will be our position at the European Council meeting. This is also a positive step forward”.

[Courtesy translation]