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European Council: PM Draghi's address to the Chamber of Deputies

Mercoledì, 20 Ottobre 2021

[The following video is available in Italian only]

Honourable President,
Honourable Deputies,

In my address today, I shall be covering the matters to be discussed during this week’s European Council meeting.
More specifically: the pandemic and vaccines; the digital transition; energy costs; migration; foreign trade; and, international engagements, in particular the COP26.

After some initial difficulties, the vaccination campaign in Europe has achieved very satisfying results.
In the European Union, almost four out of five adults have received at least one vaccine dose, for a total of 307 million people.
130 vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants have been administered in Europe, compared with 121 in the United States.

Italy’s campaign is pushing ahead at a faster rate than the EU average. 
To date, 86% of the population aged over 12 have received at least one dose and 81% are fully vaccinated.
I would like to remind you that, before the last European Council meeting at the end of June, less than one third of the population had been fully vaccinated. 
This means that, over the last three and a half months, Italy has vaccinated half of its population aged over 12 - an extraordinary effort, for which we must thank our national health system, starting from our doctors and nurses, and the huge amount of logistics work carried out by the people appointed by this Government.

I also wish to once again thank all Italians who have chosen to get vaccinated, especially our youngsters and those who have made this decision over the last few weeks, overcoming their hesitations.
The epidemiological curve is now under control thanks to citizens’ sense of responsibility, allowing us to keep schools, businesses and places of social interest open.
The European Council shall reaffirm its commitment to contributing to international solidarity with regard to vaccines.
We must increase vaccine supplies to the most fragile countries, allowing them to protect their citizens and prevent the emergence and spread of new and dangerous variants.
Only 2.8% of people living in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with almost 50% of the world population.

Italy recently tripled its vaccine donations, from 15 to 45 million doses, which will mainly be distributed via the COVAX Facility.
To date, we have allocated over 11 million: approximately three million respectively to Vietnam and Indonesia, 1.5 million to Iran and 700 thousand to Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. There is a long list of various other countries that have received these vaccines: Uganda has received 488 thousand; Albania 188 thousand; Algeria 163 thousand; Libya 261 thousand. In short, we are trying to be as active and generous as possible.
At the European Council meeting, we will also be discussing the EU’s approach to tackling and overcoming any future pandemics.
At the Global Health Summit in May this year, we signed the ‘Rome Declaration’, undertaking to improve how we share data and knowledge globally.
We must invest in science and research, which gave us effective and safe vaccines in the space of just a few months.
In September, the European Commission launched HERA, the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority, which aims to improve coordination within the EU regarding both the preparations for and the management of future crises. For example, HERA will deal with the implementation of emergency measures for the development, procurement and distribution of medical and health products.
We must prevent a repeat of the dangerous episodes of health protectionism that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
We shall continue to work towards improving the global response to future health crises, also in all the appropriate multilateral fora.

With regard to the digital transition, the European Council plans to define a road map for the 2030 targets, including indication of the relative deadlines and monitoring system.
The EU’s targets for 2030 refer to four priority areas: safe, efficient and sustainable infrastructure; the digital transformation of companies; the digitalisation of public services; and, digital skills training.   
Italy has set itself the same objectives, bringing forward the respective deadline to 2026, also thanks to the resources of its National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP).
We are still behind, but we intend to quickly bridge the gap that separates us from the rest of Europe and, in certain sectors, take the lead in Europe’s digital transition.
To achieve this, we have earmarked EUR 50 billion, equal to over a quarter of our total NRRP resources.
The Presidency of the Council and the Ministries involved have already put mechanisms in place to check progress.
These progress checks will not be excessively burdensome and will be based on reliable indicators.

At the same time, we must improve cooperation between EU Member States in the digital field.
We wish to find shared solutions on four fronts: cybersecurity; competition; digital services; and, artificial intelligence.  
With regard to cybersecurity, our goal is to ensure a clear regulatory framework and identify rapid and coordinated responses.
Italy recently established a National Cybersecurity Agency to develop our capacity for protection, monitoring, detection and mitigation.
This is a priority issue for the European Union, which will be implementing appropriate legislative instruments.

With regard to competition in the digital field, we are working on the proposals for EU regulation of the market and digital services.
Italy supports the proposal to regulate digital markets and hopes this will be adopted soon.
We then intend to establish suitable guarantees regarding freedom of enterprise and of expression.
At the same time, it is necessary to ensure there is no discrimination and an appropriate attribution of responsibilities when it comes to distributing and publishing content and products online.
Italy supports the EU Regulation on digital services, also for the purpose of effectively protecting products and content created in Italy.
We firmly believe that anything that is illegal offline must also be illegal online.
Lastly, with regard to artificial intelligence, our goal is to promote experimentation and to make this safer but also more transparent to use.
At the same time, we must boost people’s confidence in these new technological solutions.
Our National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, adopted by the Interministerial Committee for the Digital Transition, provides a framework to improve Italy’s competitive positioning. 

Achieving technological autonomy with regard to semiconductors and quantum technologies represents a key challenge for the EU.
In 1990, Europe accounted for 44% of global semiconductor capacity; in 2021, this figure now stands at just 9%.
We are becoming increasingly dependent on supplies from outside the EU.
If these supplies are delayed or blocked, as has been the case in recent months as economies start to recover, companies may be forced to cease or significantly slow down production.

The European Union plans to produce 20% of the world’s semiconductors by 2030. To achieve this, we must take immediate and decisive action.
China and the United States are already doing this, each investing tens of billions in this sector, with subsidies, to give you an idea, that range from 60% of total plant costs in China to 30% in the United States. 
The European Union must bring together the research, design, experimentation and production capacity of all Member States, for example to create a cutting-edge microchip ecosystem within Europe.
We firmly support the European Commission’s proposal to adopt a European Chips Act - such as the one adopted in the United States (called the ‘Chips Act’, which disburses the subsidies I mentioned a moment ago) - to coordinate European investments in microchips and integrated circuits, as well as their production.
We must also take urgent action to strengthen cooperation between the public and the private sector and attract investments to the technological frontier.

An observation: it is becoming increasingly clear that, without massive and far-reaching State intervention, it will not be possible to successfully deal with the digital transition, the ecological transition and other major global challenges – global in the sense that they go beyond our borders or those of other EU Member States. This is something to bear in mind, because this huge State intervention will be at both EU level and national level. So, as we discuss new rules, we must remember that the international commitments we are making regarding climate change, aid for developing countries, the digital transition, the ecological transition, can only be met if countries make very substantial financial commitments. 

Another matter we will be discussing this week will be energy.
Over recent months, we have seen a sharp increase in gas and electricity costs. These increases are mainly due to the price movements on international markets. Demand for energy has risen among families and businesses in Europe and on Asian markets, which has contributed to reducing the available stockpiles and supplies.
The Government has undertaken to contain the rise in bills.
In June, we already earmarked EUR 1.2 billion to reduce system charges. A few weeks ago, we took further action, worth over EUR 3 billion, to keep prices down in the last quarter of the year, especially for the most vulnerable members of the population.
These are immediate measures, which must be followed by other long-term provisions in order to make supplies more secure and prevent excessive price volatility.
On 13 October, the European Commission published a Communication on Energy Prices. This document describes possible emergency measures to manage the current situation, as well as proposing solutions to ensure more secure and reliable supplies in the future.
The Italian Government urged the Commission to quickly explore the option to jointly purchase and store natural gas on a voluntary basis, with medium-term measures.
This strategy may help us to better withstand shocks and to develop industrial capacity in terms of storage.
The Commission will submit a proposal to revise the regulatory framework by December.
Our medium-term goal is still to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to significantly increase our use of renewable sources.
We wish to continue with the environmental transition and meet our decarbonisation targets for 2030 and 2050.
At the same time, the State must protect the weakest members of the population with regard to the costs involved with the energy transformation, also ensuring that the time frames of this transition are compatible with businesses’ adaptability.
For the transformation of our economic system to be successful, everyone must provide their support: institutions, companies and citizens.
We must push ahead with an ambitious climate agenda and ensure there is broad acceptance and agreement among the entire population with regard to our choices.

Moving on to migration, Italy asked for this matter to be discussed at the European Council meeting back in June, with the aim of encouraging EU-level management of migratory flows.
Even those Member States concerned about so-called ‘secondary movements’ acknowledged the importance of preventing and containing illegal migration flows and of incentivising legal migration channels.
With regard to this last aspect, the European Union must step up its commitment, for example by following the model of so-called ‘humanitarian corridors’.

In June, the European Council undertook to work with countries of origin and of transit, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration.
This shared viewpoint now needs to be implemented in a timely fashion. 
The deadline for two of the commitments made is this autumn.
The first refers to action plans for countries of origin and of transit that are a priority, to be presented by the European Commission and High Representative Borrell, in collaboration with the Member States. 
These action plans must include objectives, support measures and precise time frames. 
The second refers to a report, to be submitted to the Council, on how best to use at least 10% of the resources from the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument.

This summer, Italy continued to fulfil its international sea rescue obligations and to guarantee international protection for those entitled to it.
We did this with humanity, defending the European values of solidarity and reception.
However, it is essential for the Commission, already during this week’s Council meeting, to submit clear plans that are adequately funded and that give the same priority to all Mediterranean routes, including the southern one.
These plans must then be rapidly implemented.
The European Union must also pay close attention to the specific nature of maritime borders, as well as to effective political stability in Libya and Tunisia.
I intend to propose that the European Commission update the Heads of State and Government at each European Council meeting on the progress being made towards implementing and moving forward with the commitments made. This is the only way to be able to report back to our respective Parliaments, and to our citizens, on the progress being made at EU level and on what is left to be done.

The European Council will also be discussing international trade. Since the beginning of this year, we have been seeing a strong recovery in trade between countries. This is excellent news, given the weighting of exports in our economy. During the second quarter of this year, the total value of exported goods in Italy was up 5% compared with the same period two years ago, before the pandemic. With regard to exports, we are therefore above pre-pandemic levels.
However, also with regard to GDP, this growth has been hindered by bottlenecks in the supply of materials and supply chain disruptions.
We must always aim for sustainable growth from an environmental-ecological point of view of course, but also in terms of sourcing raw materials.
Difficulties in sourcing raw materials and components, combined with transportation and delivery slowdowns, have contributed, everywhere, to an increase in inflation.

A key issue for EU commercial policy is to combat protectionism.
We must also improve today’s rules-based multilateral mechanisms and encourage them to be used in a broad and shared way.
With regard to the reform of the World Trade Organization, we hope that the 12th Ministerial Conference at the end of November will be a success, overcoming the critical issues in negotiations regarding fisheries subsidies and commercial and health policies post-COVID-19.

Lastly, the European Council will discuss external relations.
On 30 and 31 October, Rome will be hosting the G20 summit, bringing Italy’s year-long presidency to a close.
We held a G20 extraordinary leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan last week, during which we focused on humanitarian aid, the fight against terrorism and mobility.
During the Rome summit, we will mainly be dealing with the priorities of the Italian Presidency: the fight against climate change, the pandemic and support for the global recovery.
In particular, we will already be covering some of the negotiations to be held during the COP26 in Glasgow, for which Italy is partnering with the United Kingdom.
As you know, we will be co-chairing that conference with the United Kingdom.
The European Union has set itself ambitious targets.
These include reducing climate-altering emissions by 55% compared with 1990 levels by 2030, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
However, without the involvement of the world’s major economies, we will not be able to respect the Paris Agreements and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
The European Union is responsible for just 8% of global emissions. Altogether, G20 countries produce three quarters of that total. The climate crisis can only be managed if all major global players decide to take incisive, coordinated and simultaneous action.

Italy intends to move with determination on all these fronts, protecting the interests of Italian and EU citizens.
Parliament’s support is crucial for our actions to be truly effective.
Thank you for your support.

Thank you.

[Courtesy translation]