‘We need stability’: Calls grow for Italy’s Draghi to stay on as PM

Business leaders, university deans and more than 1,000 mayors of Italian towns have appealed to Prime Minister Mario Draghi to rethink his resignation amid soaring inflation, EU reforms and war.

'We need stability': Calls grow for Italy's Draghi to stay on as PM
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered his resignation on Thursday. Photo: Pierre TEYSSOT / AFP

Italy’s university deans on Monday added their voices to the calls for Draghi to to rethink his resignation amid soaring inflation, the cost of living crisis and Italy’s post-pandemic recovery plans.

Draghi offered his resignation to Italy’s president on Thursday, but was asked to take time to sound out whether it was possible to carry on with the current government until the general election early next year.

READ ALSO: Anger and astonishment in Italy after PM Draghi’s resignation attempt

He is expected to address parliament on Wednesday, either to lay out his plan for keeping the government alive or to repeat his belief that his only option is to resign.

“Dear Premier Draghi, the university world needs you,” read an open letter in newspaper Corriere della Sera by Ferruccio Resta, the head of the Politecnico di Milano and the president of the conference of Italian university deans.

“Young people need examples and renewed faith in the future”.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s latest political crisis mean for the economy?

Over the weekend a petition attracted the signatures of hundreds of mayors from Florence to Rome and Venice on Sunday, pleading for Draghi to continue.

The petition slammed the “irresponsible behaviour” of the Five Star Movement, a member of the ruling coalition that sat out a confidence vote last week, a move Draghi had warned would bring down the government.

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi tried to tender his resignation on Thursday, but was asked by President Sergio Mattarella to stay.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi tried to tender his resignation on Thursday, but was asked by President Sergio Mattarella to stay. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Business leaders and Italy’s industry associations have also called on the former European Central Bank chief to stay on as premier.

For now the country remains in limbo – with a very real possibility of early elections being called after summer.

READ ALSO: Four scenarios: What happens next in Italy’s government crisis?

Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and far-right leader Matteo Salvini, both of whom have parties in Draghi’s coalition, said Sunday they could no longer govern with Five Star, due to its “incompetence and unreliability”.

Berlusconi and Salvini are both “ready” to go to the polls “even very shortly”, if necessary, their joint statement said.

The mayors who signed the petition said they were watching events unfold “with disbelief and concern” as their cities and towns begin the work of recovering from pandemic-induced closures.

READ ALSO: How one dying Italian village plans to spend €20m in EU recovery funds

“Our cities… cannot afford a crisis today that means immobilism and division, where action, credibility, seriousness are now needed,” the petition said.

The post-pandemic recovery and social emergency mean “now, more than ever, we need stability, certainty and consistency in order to continue the transformation of our cities.

“Because without the rebirth of these, Italy will not be reborn either,” it said.

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Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Italy's government is leading a revolt against an EU plan for a green car transition, vowing to protect the automotive industry in a country still strongly attached to the combustion engine - despite the impact of climate change.

Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right coalition, which came into office last October, tried and failed to block EU plans to ban the sale of new cars running on fossil fuels by 2035, which her predecessor Mario Draghi had supported.

But this week the government took the fight to planned ‘Euro 7’ standards on pollutants, joining with seven other EU member states – including France and Poland – to demand Brussels scrap limits due to come into force in July 2025.

READ ALSO: Why electric cars aren’t more popular in Italy

“Italy is showing the way, our positions are more and more widely shared,” claimed Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso, a fervent proponent of national industry in the face of what he has called an “ideological vision” of climate change.

The EU plan “is clearly wrong and not even useful from an environmental point of view”, added Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, which shares power with Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

Salvini led the failed charge against the ban on internal combustion engines, branding it “madness” that would “destroy thousands of jobs for Italian workers” while he claimed it would benefit China, a leader in producing electric vehicles.

Electric car being charged

Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Federico Spadini from Greenpeace Italy lamented that “environmental and climate questions are always relegated to second place”, blaming a “strong industrial lobby in Italy” in the automobile and energy sectors.

“None of the governments in recent years have been up to the environmental challenge,” he told AFP.

“Unfortunately, Italy is not known in Europe as climate champion. And it’s clear that with Meloni’s government, the situation has deteriorated,” he said.

Low demand

Jobs are a big factor. In 2022, Italy had nearly 270,000 direct or indirect employees in the automotive sector, which accounted for 5.2 percent of GDP.

The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has warned that switching to all electric cars could lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Italy by 2035 for automobile suppliers alone.

READ ALSO: Italians and their cars are inseparable – will this ever change?

“Since Fiat was absorbed by Stellantis in 2021, Italy no longer has a large automobile industry, but it remains big in terms of components, which are all orientated towards traditional engines,” noted Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

For consumers too, the electric revolution has yet to arrive.

Italy has one of the highest car ownership rates in Europe: ranking fourth behind Liechtenstein, Iceland and Luxembourg with 670 passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the latest Eurostat figures from 2020.

But sales of electric cars fell by 26.9 percent in 2022, to just 3.7 percent of the market, against 12.1 percent for the EU average.

Electric cars charge at a hub in central Milan on March 23, 2023. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Subsidies to boost zero emissions vehicles fell flat, while Minister Urso has admitted that on infrastructure, “we are extremely behind”.

Italy has just 36,000 electric charging stations, compared to 90,000 for the Netherlands, a country the fraction of the size of Italy, he revealed.

READ ALSO: These are the most (and least) eco-friendly towns in Italy

“There is no enthusiasm for electric cars in Italy,” Felipe Munoz, an analyst with the automotive data company Jato Dynamics, told AFP.

“The offer is meagre, with just one model manufactured by national carmaker Fiat.”

In addition, “purchasing power is not very high, people cannot afford electric vehicles, which are expensive. So the demand is low, unlike in Nordic countries.”

Gerrit Marx, head of the Italian truck manufacturer Iveco, agrees.

“We risk turning into a big Cuba, with very old cars still driving around for years, because a part of the population will not be able to afford an electric model,” he said.