‘Peace or Air Conditioners’ – Italian PM Tells People to Cut Energy Use to Help Ukraine

The President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi speaks during a ceremony to

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi has drawn ridicule for saying that Italians can either choose peace in Ukraine or use their air conditioners over the summer.

At a press conference in Rome following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Draghi said that he believed an embargo on Russian gas by the European Union was unlikely, but that Italy would “follow the decisions of the European Union.”

However, the former European Central Bank boss called on his countrymen to pitch in by limiting their energy usage to keep the price of natural gas lower, thereby keeping Russia’s profits down.

“Do we want to have peace [in Ukraine] or do we want to have the air conditioning on?” the Italian leader questioned in comments reported on Thursday by the ANSA press agency.

Mr Draghi attempted to reassure the public by claiming that Italy — heavily dependent on Russian gas imports — has enough gas reserves to last until October even if Moscow shut off the supply.

There has been discussion from some, including the Mayor of Rome, about the possibility of gas rationing over the summer, however.

In an editorial in the Milan-based conservative newspaper Il Giornale, deputy editor Francesco Maria Del Vigo said that the comments from Draghi have “rightly” sparked widespread ridicule and memes in Italy.

In one popular post, a woman posted a video of an air conditioner being turned on causing the Russian national anthem to play:

Del Vigo said that it was justified to criticise Draghi’s comments “not because the problem is not serious, but because the question is misplaced: If Italy has an energy dependence problem it is certainly not the fault of Italians and they cannot solve it on their own.”

He said that it is both comical and nerve-wracking that a government which “never considers the individuality of its citizens” only realises the importance of the individual “in the face of a war”.

“A continent dramatically without an army, now wants to delude itself into militarising the most banal daily gestures,” Del Vigo wrote.

Draghi is not alone in the EU in calling for citizens to curtail their lives. Last week, for example, European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager called on people to take shorter showers, saying: “When you turn off the water, say ‘Take that, Putin!’”

In March, the International Energy Agency also said that Europeans should turn down their thermostats in order to decrease reliance on Russian gas.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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