ROME - Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, will present his policy priorities in the Italian Senate on Wednesday before a mandatory confidence vote in his government of national unity. Draghi was sworn into office at the weekend at the helm of a broad-based administration that has the backing of parties from across the political spectrum, to guide Italy through the coronavirus crisis and an economic slump. Appointed after infighting tore apart the last coalition, Draghi has said little in public about his plans, and the debate in the upper house of parliament will give him the chance to spell out what he hopes to achieve in the coming months. His immediate concerns are likely to be ensuring a smooth vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and re-writing plans for how to spend more than 200 billion euros ($240 billion) of European Union funds aimed at rebuilding the economy. To guarantee the money is well spent, Draghi is also expected to signal that he wants to overhaul the public administration, which is throttled by red tape, and the justice system, one of the slowest in Europe. If he succeeds, Draghi will not only help revive Italy after the worst recession since World War Two, but will also give a boost to the whole EU, which has long fretted over chronic sluggishness in the euro zone's third largest economy. Draghi is among Europe's most respected figures after his 8-year stewardship of the ECB, and his nomination as prime minister has been hailed by investors - as reflected in Italian bond sales on Tuesday that drew record demand. However, he faces daunting challenges, not least keeping together his disparate coalition, which includes political foes with vastly different views on issues such as immigration, industrial policy and welfare. With a vast majority on paper, Draghi looks set to waltz through Wednesday's confidence vote in the Senate and a similar vote in the lower house on Thursday, the final step needed for the government to exercise its full powers. The only major party that refused to hook up with him is the far-right Brothers of Italy. However, some members of the 5-Star Movement, created in 2009 as an anti-system, anti-euro protest group, have said they will vote against him, threatening a schism which could tear apart the party before elections due by 2023. 5-Star is the largest party in parliament following its triumph at the last election in 2018. REUTERS
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