Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday officially resigned, remitting his mandate to the hands of the president, and putting an end to his national unity government after 17 months in office. "President Sergio Mattarella has received Mario Draghi, who ... has reiterated the resignation of the government he leads," a statement from Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic Ugo Zampetti read. Read: Italian Premier Draghi's resignation is rebuffed , for now "The President has taken note (of the resignation). The current government remains in office to take care of current affairs," it added. ■
Italian Premier Mario Draghi offered to step down Thursday after a populist coalition partner refused to vote for a key bill in Parliament, but the nation's president quickly rebuffed him, leaving one of Western Europe's main leaders at the helm for now. The rejection of the tendered resignation left in limbo the future of Draghi's 17-month-old government, officially known as a national unity coalition, but with its survival sorely tested by increasingly sharp divergences within the coalition. Draghi’s broad coalition government — which includes parties from the right, the left, the center and the populist 5-Star Movement — was designed to help Italy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Hours earlier Thursday, Draghi and his government won a confidence vote, 172-39, in the Senate despite the refusal by the 5-Star Movement to back the bill, which earmarked 26 billion euros (dollars) to help consumers and industries struggling with soaring energy prices. But the dramatic snub, orchestrated by 5-Star leader Giuseppe Conte, Draghi’s predecessor, did its damage. Shortly before heading to the Quirinal presidential palace to tender his resignation, Draghi declared: “The majority of national unity that has sustained this government from its creation doesn’t exist any more." Also read: Italy keen to supply LNG to Bangladesh But President Sergio Mattarella told Draghi to instead go back to Parliament and see if he can still garner solid support, a palace statement said. The next showdown in Parliament is set for July 20, when Draghi will formally pitch for support ahead of a confidence vote — this time not on a specific bill but on his government's very viability. “Now there are five days to work so that Parliament confirms its confidence in the Draghi government and Italy emerges as rapidly as possible from the dramatic unraveling” of the last hours, tweeted Enrico Letta, the head of the Democratic Party, a Draghi ally and a former premier. In Brussels, the European Union's finance commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian premier, said officials there were “following with worried astonishment” the potential unraveling of Draghi's coalition. The uncertainty over Draghi's staying power also appeared to rattle the markets. The Milan stock exchange lost 3.44% on Thursday. If Draghi can't solidly stitch back together a durable coalition, Mattarella could pull the plug on Parliament, setting the stage for an early election as soon as late September. Currently, Parliament’s term expires in spring 2023. Also read: Tourists, rejoice! Italy, Greece relax COVID-19 restrictions Mattarella had tapped the former European Central Bank chief — who was known as “Super Mario” for his “whatever it takes” rescue of the euro — to pull Italy out of the pandemic and lay the groundwork to make use of billions in European Union pandemic recovery funds. The 5-Stars, who have lost significant support in recent local elections and have slumped in opinion polls, are in disarray. In the measure Thursday, the 5-Stars opposed a provision to allow Rome to operate a garbage incinerator on the outskirts of the chronically trash-choked Italian capital. In the debate, some senators praised Draghi as a pivotal figure in Europe as Russia wages war against Ukraine, especially with the impending departure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Center-right Sen. Antonio Saccone thundered that the 5-Stars were “doing a favor” to Russian President Vladimir Putin by causing political instability. Recently, Conte had waffled for a while over whether to keep supporting military aid for Ukraine, but eventually backed Draghi on pledging fresh assistance. Being in a government “is not like picking up a menu and deciding, antipasto, no, gelato, yes,″ said Emma Bonino, who leads a tiny pro-Europe party. Draghi has governed with the support of virtually all of Italy’s main parties, with the exception of the fast-rising far-right Brothers of Italy party. The potential implosion of Draghi's coalition triggered fresh demands by the party's leader, Giorgia Meloni, for an early election that she hopes will be her springboard to becoming Italy's first woman premier. Giovanni Orsina, a history professor and director of the school of government at Rome's LUISS university, correctly predicted that Mattarella would ask Draghi to find a new, workable majority. “We've got the pandemic, we got the war, we have inflation, we have the energy crisis. So certainly this is not a good moment,” Orsina said. "Mattarella believes, rightly, that his mission is to safeguard stability.” Among Draghi’s achievements has been keeping Italy on track with reforms that the EU has made a condition for the country to receive 200 billion euros (dollars) in pandemic recovery assistance. Much of that EU funding is already allocated, suggesting it won't be lost even amid government instability.
Despite a sluggish start, the European Union’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has caught up to that of the United States, where the slowdown of the country’s once-vaunted campaign has contributed to the virus’s deadly comeback. In mid-February, less than 4% of people living in the 27-nation EU were at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared with nearly 12% in the U.S, according to Our World in Data, an online science publication connected to the University of Oxford. Read:Pizza for shots: UK targets young with vaccine incentives Now the EU has surpassed the U.S. by that same measure, with some 60% of the bloc’s residents receiving at least one dose, versus less than 58% of Americans. In Italy, where roughly 63% of people 12 and older are fully protected, Premier Mario Draghi took a victory lap this past week. “I said that I don’t want to celebrate successes, but it must be said that Italy has inoculated more doses per 100 inhabitants than France, Germany, the United States,” he said as the country’s vaccine verification program went into effect Friday. People in Italy must now show proof they have had at least one vaccine dose, recovered from COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the virus if they want to dine indoors, use gyms or go to concerts, theaters, museums and tourist sites such as the Colosseum. European authorities attribute success in Italy and elsewhere to nationalized health care and a history of public confidence in the safety of immunizations. The EU’s slow process for approving the vaccinations set the bloc back at the beginning, but that is now paying dividends because it is instilling more confidence in the rapidly developed formulas, said Dr. Peter Liese, a European Parliament member from Germany. While the U.S. and Britain issued emergency authorizations of vaccines to get shots into arms quickly, the EU went through the longer process of granting full approvals, putting it weeks behind. “I am convinced that we have a good argument to explain to people still hesitating that the vaccine was properly tested in Europe,” Liese said recently. “Now it becomes clear that not only the pace of vaccination in the first months but also the long-term strategy is important.” The turnaround in Spain has been pronounced. In mid-April, when nearly a quarter of all Americans were fully vaccinated, only 7% of Spaniards were similarly protected, according to Our World in Data. Now, nearly 60% of Spain’s roughly 47 million people are fully vaccinated, while about half the U.S. is. Portugal, with around 10 million people, had fully vaccinated around a third of its population by the end of June. Now officials say it is on track to reach 70% by the end of the summer. Read:UK recognises Bangladesh's Dr Jara as 'Vaccine Luminary' Like the American vaccination drive, the European Union effort started around Christmas and struggled to meet initial demand. But it quickly turned into a major political embarrassment for European officials, as the U.S. and Britain jumped ahead. The major factor holding back the EU initially was its decision to purchase vaccines as a bloc instead of as individual countries. The move ensured smaller member nations weren’t left out, but it ended up taking more time to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, said Giovanna De Maio, a visiting fellow in international relations at George Washington University. The U.S. was also more efficient in distributing the vaccine, quickly setting up large-scale vaccination sites and also supplying shots to neighborhood pharmacies, groceries and other places, while the EU initially focused on hospitals and other medical facilities, she said. EU nations were also overly confident manufacturers would deliver. As it turned out, Astra-Zeneca failed to produce its shots on time and delivered a paltry number of doses. Concerns over its safety and effectiveness also contributed to vaccine skepticism. But with the major rollout of the Pfizer shot, things turned around. Meanwhile, the U.S. vaccination effort peaked and then dropped off dramatically in the face of significant hesitancy and outright hostility, fueled by misinformation and partisan politics. As of the end of July, the U.S. was dispensing under 600,000 shots a day on average, down from a peak of over 3.4 million a day in April. The highly contagious delta variant has sent new daily cases soaring over the past month to levels not seen since February. The vast majority of those hospitalized were not vaccinated. Still, not all is well within the EU. Discrepancies between member states are huge. For example, in the Netherlands, 85% of adults have received at least one dose. In Bulgaria, it is less than 20%. There are also troubling signs that Europe’s campaign is losing steam. In Germany, where 54% of the population is fully vaccinated, the number of shots being dispensed per day has declined from more than 1 million in May to about 500,000. Officials there have begun pushing for more vaccinations at megastores and in city centers and are offering incentives. A vaccination drive in Thuringia state included free bratwurst, while sites in Berlin planned to have DJs play music this weekend in hopes of encouraging young people to get inoculated. Read:UK urges commitment to vaccinate the world by end of 2022 De Maio said she believes nationwide vaccine mandates like her native Italy’s Green Pass program could help EU nations avoid America’s fate. “European politicians see it coming and they’re taking these measures,” she said of the potential for vaccination efforts to stall in Europe. “They’re desperate trying to avoid that because Europe can’t afford another lockdown, given the big economic toll COVID has already taken.”
Mario Draghi, the man largely credited with saving the euro currency, took the helm as Italy’s premier Saturday after assembling a government of economic experts and other technocrats along with career politicians from across the spectrum to guide the pandemic-devastated nation toward recovery.