By Rachel Sanderson
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is already being announced as the new leader of Europe in the post-Angela Merkel era. With German politics currently in a deep stalemate, and with France’s Emmanuel Macron facing a new presidential election, Draghi, who has the merit of saving the common European currency with just 3 words said, looks like a man who can ‘ is trusted.
To understand basically why the elites of Europe are so enthusiastic about the idea of Mario Draghi starting to have a bigger role in the European Union, it is enough to see the result of the first round of local elections in Italy, which were held in earlier this month.
Instead of leaning towards the politics of the far right embodied by Matteo Salvini, voters chose largely underrated bureaucrats, a kind of mini-Mario army.
Italian policy remains volatile, as evidenced by clashes over the use of the “Green Pass” (vaccine passports) to promote vaccination, as well as large-scale protests in Milan and the port city of Trieste.
This is not happening by chance, as Draghi, who was appointed prime minister this year after Italy’s elected politicians failed to properly manage the pandemic – is leading the narrative of Europe’s economic revival after Covid-19.
Italy has vaccinated over 80 percent of its population over the age of 12, and infections have dropped significantly since the pandemic began when the country was one of the most affected outside China. Draghi has continued his course, refusing to fluctuate in his approach from the protests.
His resilience is giving more impetus and support to the moderates in Italy. For a Europe hoping to curb extremism, Italy can become a very encouraging example. The country has a strange history of being a black omen: Fascism that later brought Nazism, Silvio Berlusconi who was a figment of Donald Trump.
The rise of populism in Italy was also seen as a warning to the whole of Europe. Now its fading, especially in a country whose economy has been in decline for 2 decades, is welcome news. And this thanks to the new humor that Mario Draghi has brought to Italy.
Italy has received the bulk of NextGenEU funds, more than 200 billion euros. The success or failure of the project depends on whether Draghi spends well on these funds. So far the signs are encouraging. Most of these funds aim to make the Italian economy more digital and sustainable.
About 40 billion euros of aid will go to new companies that will deal with the production of renewable energy or to industries that have been more environmentally friendly. Even the French newspaper Les Echos hailed the apparent transformation of Italy from the “sick of Europe” to an example for the old continent: “Now all roads lead to Rome!”
Draghi’s stature and international experience make him a visible candidate to lead Europe. His famous “Whatever You Need” speech in London in 2012 was followed by measures that pulled Europe out of the financial crisis.
While promising more positive things, he is pragmatic and adept at balancing competing views. He is also, in the words of someone who negotiated with him at the ECB, “capable of seducing those he tries to persuade in silence.”
But it would be a mistake for Europeans to pin their hopes on the idea that Draghi is a replacement for Merkel or Macron. Most importantly: he is likely to be a closer ally of the US, due to his background at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the World Bank and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Brunello Rosa, who runs a consulting and research company alongside economist Nouriel Roubini, recently told me that although Draghi strongly believes in multilateralism, he is one of the top US allies.
US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen also praised the magazine “Time” this month. In fact, since becoming Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi has taken a controversial approach to the EU’s lenient stance on China, to the point of blocking the sale of a Chinese company to a company earlier this year. Italian semiconductors.
Meanwhile, the Italian Prime Minister was silent on the fierce US-France debate over the AUKUS pact. Within the EU, he made it clear that if Europe wants to be a major player in the global economy, it needs to be more ambitious about integration. As a former president of the European Central Bank, he is ready to put pressure on Brussels to weaken fiscal rules.
A change in this regard would enable Europe to accelerate its transition from austerity to more growth-friendly public spending. Europe is likely to embrace Draghi’s vision. However, there is still a question mark that places this expectation on a shaky ground: legitimacy.
Draghi is an unelected technocrat who runs Italy on the orders of its president, and on the basis of cross-party support from concerned Italian politicians. Merkel was influential because of her personal attributes, but her influence in Europe was based on her nearly 16 years in power.
As talented and extraordinary as he may be, Draghi’s influence will ultimately stem from the support of Italian voters, which is fluid even in the best of times. It is also worth noting that the difficult issues at the heart of Europe’s future – defense and strategic autonomy – are not Draghi’s natural domain.
Since the post-war period, Italy has been in a close alliance with the US, and Draghi may not be the person to push distancing himself from Washington. However, Draghi has all the hallmarks of a new European leader. Europe should be aware of this./Bota.al/
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