End of the line for Draghi’s government
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has won a confidence vote in the Senate, but it was a hollow victory after boycotts by three of his key coalition allies in the voting virtually doomed any prospects for his unity government’s survival. The vote on Wednesday went 95-38 in the favour of Draghi’s government in the 315-member Senate, after lawmakers deserted the roll call in droves. The rapid unravelling of Draghi’s 17-month-old coalition in the last hours could prompt President Sergio Mattarella to dissolve Parliament, opening the path to holding an early election, possibly as soon as late September. Just before the vote, representatives of the populist 5-Star Movement, the conservative forces of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party and right-wing senators of Matteo Salvini’s League party announced they would skip the roll call. The coalition partners’ walkouts came despite an unprecedented outpouring of sentiment by citizens in the last days appealing for Draghi to keep on governing, amid soaring inflation, high energy costs and a surge in pandemic infections. Coalition turmoil prompted Draghi last week to offer his resignation, but Italy’s president rejected the bid and asked the premier to test his government’s support in Parliament. That test of his national unity government’s staying power failed dramatically on Wednesday night.
EU prepares for Russian gas cut-off
The European Commission has urged EU members to reduce demand for natural gas by 15% over the coming months and to give it the powers to impose gas rationing in preparation for a winter without Russian gas, or with a much-reduced supply. In a draft plan, the Commission asks member states to turn down the heating and air-conditioning in public and commercial buildings.
Biden announces modest climate actions. Europe is eagerly watching whether Russia will resume gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline today when scheduled maintenance is due to be completed. German pipeline manager Gascade said it expected Russian gas deliveries to resume at 40% of capacity.
Spain rejects the EU gas cuts proposal
The Spanish government “does not support” the proposal of the European Union which provides for each country to voluntarily cut gas consumption by 15%, Teresa Ribera, deputy prime minister and minister of Ecological Transition, said yesterday. She stressed no opinion had been “previously asked” on the member countries and asked for “a debate”.
Wildfires rage across Europe
Emergency services battled wildfires across swathes of southern Europe amid mass evacuations on Wednesday, as warnings sounded in London after Britain’s hottest day that the fight against climate change needed to be stepped up. Hundreds fled in central Italy as gas tanks exploded in a forest fire near the Tuscan town of Lucca. Similar numbers fled in Greece as a blaze fuelled by gale-force winds raged in mountains north of Athens. Greek authorities said later in the day that the blaze had been tamed. While the record heat last week around parts of the Mediterranean has eased, mercury readings have begun heading up again in Portugal, Spain and Italy. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday “more than 500 people” died during a 10-day heatwave in Spain, one of the most intense ever recorded in the country.
‘China set for takeover of Taiwan’ – CIA chief
Chinese President Xi Jinping is determined to take control of Taiwan but is studying the lessons of Russian military shortfalls in Ukraine before taking action, CIA Director William Burns told the Aspen Security Forum. Burns said he would not underestimate Xi’s determination to assert Chinese control over Taiwan, and military action could come in the next few years. The Chinese leader is working to make sure the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has the capabilities needed for a successful invasion of the island located about 100 miles off the Chinese coast. Xi, since taking power in 2013, has made a takeover of Taiwan a national priority and a focus of the PLA’s large-scale military buildup. “I think the risks of [an invasion] become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade you get,” Burns said.
Ukrainian first lady asks US Congress to ‘Stop this terror’
Ukraine’s first lady made an emotional pitch Wednesday to US lawmakers for more weapons to fight Russian invaders, saying she spoke for millions of parents fearing for their children. Taking a cue from her husband, President Zelensky, who showed graphic images during his virtual appearance before the US Congress, Olena Zelenska – who appeared in person – displayed images of joyful children who were killed or maimed by Russia. Zelenska, stepping into a more public role after staying sheltered immediately following Russia’s February 24 invasion, acknowledged it was unusual for a first lady to seek weapons but said it was vital.
Sunak, Truss reach run-off in Tory leadership race
Former finance minister Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss will battle it out to become Britain’s next prime minister after they won the final lawmaker vote, setting up the last stage of the contest to replace Boris Johnson. Sunak has led in all rounds of the voting among Conservative lawmakers, but it is Truss who seems to have gained the advantage so far among the 200,000 members of the governing party who will ultimately choose the winner. Whoever triumphs when the result is announced on September 5 will inherit some of the most difficult conditions in Britain in decades. Inflation is on course to hit 11% annually, growth is stalling, industrial action is on the rise and the pound is near historic lows against the dollar.
Boris Johnson’s last PMQs marked with banter
If Boris Johnson was expecting a teary-eyed send off from all MPs, he didn’t get one at his final Prime Minister’s Questions, the BBC reports. The outgoing prime minister’s last weekly grilling at the dispatch box was not unlike his first in September 2019 – acrimonious, raucous, and littered with his colourful quips. After almost an hour, Mr Johnson brought the curtain down in characteristic fashion, with a tongue-in-cheek farewell, borrowed from the script of a sci-fi blockbuster. “Hasta la vista, baby,” Johnson told MPs, reciting the line from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in the 1991 film ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’. Uproarious laughter, cheers and a standing ovation from the Conservative benches followed.
Biden announces modest climate actions
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced modest new steps to combat climate change and promised more robust action to come, saying, “This is an emergency and I will look at it that way.” However, he stopped short of declaring a formal climate emergency. Biden hinted such a step could be coming. Biden pledged to use his power as president “to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses”. When it comes to climate change, he added, “I will not take no for an answer.”
Euro 2022: England rally knocks out Spain
England are through to the semi-finals of the European Women’s Championship after coming from behind in dramatic fashion to beat pre-tournament favourites Spain in extra time. Georgia Stanway sent the Amex Stadium into delirium when she thumped in the winner after Sarina Wiegman’s side had trailed up until the 84th minute of normal time. A rendition of Football’s Coming Home broke out in the stands as Stanway sprinted over to the corner to celebrate, with England leading for the first time after 95 minutes. Eventual victory for the hosts ensured they reached a fourth successive women’s major tournament semi-finals and their impressive unbeaten run under Wiegman extends to 18 matches. The Lionesses are now one of the leading favourites to lift the trophy for the first time at Wembley on July 31, but they must overcome either Sweden or Belgium in the last four to get there. Spain leave the tournament at the quarter-finals stage for the third successive time. Tpoday’s semi-final (9pm): Germany v Austria.