Tax, justice, and energy: Draghi’s three domestic fronts

The war in Ukraine is not the only priority for the government of President Mario Draghi. On the domestic front, in fact, the political week that has just ended saw the executive fully committed to three particularly delicate issues: taxation, justice and energy.

On the third point, the prime minister was in Algiers together with Foreign Affairs and Ecological Transition ministers (Di Maio and Cingolani) and the CEO of ENI (Descalzi) to expand the gas supplies purchased in the North African country by the Algerian state company Sonatrach. The crisis in relations with Moscow has prompted the leaders of the Italian government to spend themselves to free the country from dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

The trip to Algeria and Draghi’s meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune earned Rome another nine billion cubic meters of gas, one third of which will be available by next winter. Currently, the former French colony supplies Italy with twenty billion cubic meters a year thanks to the Transmed pipeline that lands in Sicily. The agreement with Algiers provides also for bilateral cooperation in terms of joint renewable energy projects.

Rome aims to completely free itself from dependence on Russia in just two years. To achieve this ambitious goal, the head of the executive is planning another three trips in the African continent: after Easter he will fly to Congo, to obtain five more billion of gas, and than it will be the turn of Mozambique and Angola.

The strategy of diversifying energy supply sources also passes through ENI’s initiatives. This week our national champion announced the signing of a framework agreement with the Egyptian natural gas holding company which aims to supply Italy with three billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas.

The news provoked the reactions of a part of the political world for its implications on the unresolved Regeni case, which according to PD secretary Enrico Letta constitutes a “wights heavily on Italy’s international relations” with Egypt. That is why the agreement with Cairo has not been attributed the same political significance as the agreement reached with Algeria, for which the top of the government has acted personally.

The issue of how to reconcile Italy’s national security needs with the protection of its citizens abroad will not fail to animate the domestic debate – within the majority and among public opinion – in the months to come. For the moment, the outbreak of war in Ukraine is making reason of state prevail over the safeguard of human rights. Nothing surprising for a technical government that does not have to answer to the electoral body.

The other fronts of discussion within the Italian political system concerned the interventions of the executive on taxation and justice. On the first point, the center-right pressed on Palazzo Chigi especially against the dreaded land registry reform, which according to the League would risk causing an increase in taxes to the detriment of Italians. In response, the PD asked Draghi to go straight, since the threat of the crisis would weaken the joint government experience.

The League’s problem in a pre-electoral year like 2022 is the rivalry with the Brothers of Italy party, which sees the premier’s intention to ask a confidence vote on the tax reform bill is inappropriate and to be avoided. Hence the need to exhibit a critical attitude on the provision and the request to cancel the part of the reform that binds the cadastral value to that of the market.

In addition to Giorgia Meloni’s party, against the recourse to the confidence vote are the voices of those who fear its effects on the change in the institutional balance that has been going on for several years now. The reference is to the role of Parliament, which is less and less autonomous in legislative production and has become a mere ratifier of the government’s choices.

In recent years, the phenomenon of the slippage of the legislative power in the hands of the holder of the executive one has materialized through the immoderate recourse to the decree-laws, the reiteration of confidence votes and the powers of ordinance exercised by the Prime Minister in the form of DPCM decrees during the pandemic. For this reason, many demand not to aggravate the decline of Parliament and not to completely remove any institutional counterweight to the primacy of the executive.

During the week, the meeting of the center-right leaders with Draghi and the Minister of Economy Daniele Franco dissipated some of the clouds that hover over the future of the measure, albeit postponing its arrival in the Chamber floor until after 2 May. What emerges from the meetings with the majority forces is the prime minister’s determination to continue the path of tax reform without disruption.

The ruling coalition also held up on the justice reform front, despite some difficulty in concluding the work in the House committee – with the opposition to the attack and the allies glaring at each other, fearful of being tripped by each amendment. Draghi’s imperative was to close the discussion by this week to begin voting on the measure in the Chamber from Tuesday 19 April.

The reform provides for a new electoral system to enter the CSM, the blocking of revolving doors, mechanisms to avoid package appointments shared between party currents, the possibility for each magistrate of a single change of function during their career, the development of a personal file of the magistrate to consider professional results.

The measure ended up in the crosshairs of the judiciary, which branded it as “punitive” and “mortifying” and is aimed at the strike. Despite some difficulties, the most significant fact is that the majority held up. Thanks to the call for unity that came from the Quirinale, the mediation work conducted by Justice Minister Marta Cartabia and the need to react quickly to the Palamara scandal which marked the collapse of authority of the Italian judiciary.