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Prime Minister Draghi’s speech at the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards 2022

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Good evening everybody, and thank you for being here.

Chairman Rogers, dear John,
President Kempe, 
Secretary Yellen, Janet,
Minister Al Jaber,
Ambassador Markarova,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great, great honour to be here with you tonight.
I would like to thank the Atlantic Council for the award.
I'm extremely grateful for the award and, even more so, for tonight, for this splendid evening. You’re here all together.
I want to share this prize with my government, my country, my fellow citizens.

Italy has come through some extremely difficult times in the last few years. 
We faced the pandemic before anyone else in the Western world.
We endured an economic shock that was much sharper than elsewhere in Europe. 
We now experience the return of war on our continent, which threatens our safety, our prosperity, our energy security.
And this is happening for the first time since the Second World War.
Yet – as it has done time and again in its magnificent history – Italy has bounced back.
And we are ready to do our part, together with our European and Transatlantic allies, to overcome this tragic moment.
To restore peace where there is evil.

I would also like to thank Janet for the extremely generous speech – which I do not deserve (fortunately, I was backstage so I couldn’t blush openly!).
Her words bring me back to the early 1970s, during my early years in the US, when I was a graduate student at MIT and Janet was an assistant professor at Harvard.
As a young man from Rome, everything I saw in Cambridge was new.
Three things struck me the most and have remained with me ever since.
The openness of this welcoming country – the United States of America. 
The generosity of my mentors – the late Franco Modigliani and Paul Samuelson, Bob Solow and Stan Fischer, all of whom I would like to thank tonight.
The brilliance of my fellow students – Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and, the one I was closest to, Pentti Kouri, alongside many others. Tonight I have one of my closest friends, Francesco Giavazzi, sitting with us.
At MIT, I learnt to look ahead, to think with rigour.
And, more than anything else, given my character, to challenge conventional wisdoms – no matter how settled they are.

These lessons resonate with me today, as we grapple with one of the worst crises since the Second World War.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a paradigm shift in geopolitics.
It has strengthened the ties between the European Union and the United States, isolated Moscow, raised deep questions for China.
These changes are still ongoing – but one thing is certain:
They are bound to stay with us for a long, long time.
We must continue to support the bravery of the Ukrainians, as they fight for their freedom and for the security of us all.
We must continue to inflict costs on Russia, moving swiftly with our latest package of sanctions.
But we must also do all we can to reach a ceasefire and a long-lasting peace.
It will be up to the Ukrainians to decide the terms of this peace - and no-one else.

Meanwhile, we have to prepare ourselves for the world we’ll live in tomorrow.
We must be ready to continue to stand with Ukraine long after the war ends.
The destruction of its cities, its industrial plants, its fields will require enormous financial support.
Ukraine will need its own Marshall Plan – much like the one that contributed to the special relationship between Europe and the United States.
And we’ll need to ensure its democratic institutions remain strong, stable and lively.
Ukraine is our friend.
Ukraine will remain our friend. 
The difficult times started well before the war, but each of these crisis carries major consequences for Europe: risks, but also opportunities.
Let me give you one example. The pandemic has brought the European Union together in ways that were unthinkable even a few months ago.
I am referring to our joint vaccination effort – a model for the world;
And to the NextGenerationEU – a first seed of that “Hamiltonian moment” which two centuries ago helped make the modern United States.
The war in Ukraine has the potential to bring the European Union even closer together.
It’s quite clear that there is no way we can cope with the many challenges, the serious challenges that we have to face in future years on a national basis. It’s quite clear that what is needed now is a joint effort, which will put us together much more than it did in the past.
There is one thing I want to say: we’ll have to streamline our defence spending, avoiding inefficiencies and duplications; 
Speed up the energy transition; 
Relaunch the economic recovery; 
Address longstanding and new inequalities.
These radical transformations require change in our institutions and may require changes in our founding Treaties. 
We must remember the urgency of the moment, the magnitude of the challenge.
This is Europe’s hour and we must seize it.

The choices the EU faces are brutally simple. 
We can be masters of our own destiny, or slaves to the decisions of others.
What makes me optimistic is that we know we are not alone. 
At a time of profound change, some things stay the same.
The close relationship between the European Union and the United States.
That timeless bond that strengthens us both. 
Thank you.