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Will Draghi be the next (unofficial) leader of the EU?

Source: Flickr

Mario Draghi is certainly one of the most influential figures of 2021, particularly after his appointment as prime minister of Italy during the government crisis in February. He was called due to his brilliant career and experience to manage the funds arriving from the European Union with the purpose of overcoming the tragic consequences of the pandemic, namely the "Recovery Funds" plan, in Italy the “PNRR” (in Italian "Piano Nazionale Di Ripresa e Resilienza", translated in English: "National Recovery and Resiliency Plan"). After his first months as prime minister, we can say that he achieved a lot of great results, such as a very efficient vaccination campaign (84,63% of Italian citizens above the age of twelve are fully vaccinated), the introduction of measures based on real facts (and not on political beliefs) and a higher degree of stabilization of Italian politics.

His election affected obviously the European Union too, because Italy strengthened his position towards European institutions due to the prestige of its new leader, the man who saved the euro “with three words”, a prestige which the previous P.M. Giuseppe Conte did not have, considering also his alliance at first with the Eurosceptic nationalist party “Lega”. Pedro Sanchez, prime minister of Spain, once declared: “Whenever Draghi speaks to the European Council, we all fall silent and listen. This is not something that happens often”. Therefore, after the end of Angela Merkel’s government in Germany, who has clearly been the unofficial leader of the EU until this moment, many are wondering if Mario Draghi will replace her, embodying the pragmatism and the authority which characterized the former “Bundeskanzlerin”.

Source: Flickr

Firstly, having shown that he has what it takes to become the next leader in Europe, we can give a look at his contenders for this position. Another valued name other than the former ECB leader is Olaf Scholz, the next chancellor of Germany and Merkel’s successor, even if he is not a member of the CDU, Merkel’s party, but the president of the SPD, the socialists. Scholz is an esteemed decision-maker and has been the finance minister under the Merkel government. That means he already managed the funds from Next Generation EU, so he can guarantee continuity to German economic policies. Nonetheless, he is expected to face some big challenges such as the refugee crisis and environmental issues. Can Scholz become the most influential politician in Europe as his predecessor was? It’s too soon to know, his government has not started yet and he lacks Draghi’s extraordinary curriculum, but he is going to represent one of the most powerful countries in the continent, so he will of course have an élite position.

The third contender is Emmanuel Macron, French Republic president since 2017, who has made a lot of proposals regarding EU topics during his years of political activity, for instance an integrated EU defense, a digital tax or a common asylum policy. Macron increased his leadership over the years and recently he has often pushed for a stronger European autonomy, given the rising power of China, the AUKUS deal, by which the US returned to focus on the pacific area, and the Afghan disaster caused by the American troops’ withdrawal.

One interesting fact is that in January 2022 the French presidency of the Council of the European Union will start, and this is going to determine Macron's future potential leadership. Furthermore, in next April there will be the French presidential elections, and if the actual president won’t be reelected, probably losing against right-wing parties’ candidates like Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour or Xavier Bertrand, his race for the European leadership will stop.

We can say that something similar could happen to Mario Draghi, too, because in almost one month from today the Italian parliament will elect the new president of the Republic, and Draghi is considered a possible candidate. There’s a part of the parliament formed by the actual opposition who could vote for him in order to obtain early elections for the members of the parliament, because their party, Giorgia Meloni’s “Fratelli d'Italia'', is currently first in polls. However, many observers believe that this scenario won’t take place because of a broad majority of politicians who want to continue the path traced by Draghi’s government regarding PNRR, pandemic control, and most importantly the changes marked by the premier to the way to govern the country, but for now nothing is certainly predictable.

But what are the unfavorable elements linked to a potential Draghi’s leadership in Europe, having said that he exceeds the other contenders in terms of experience and prestige? The answers can be found again in Italian politics. Mario Draghi is a technocrat called to face the challenges of the present, and he is supported by a weird majority, which includes rival parties together such as the left-leaning Democrats and the center-right groups (Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia” and Salvini’s “Lega”). That means his government will probably last until 2023 at most, and it is nothing compared to the sixteen years of Merkel’s one. In other words, his leadership in Europe could not guarantee durability.

In conclusion, Draghi’s ascent could be useful for the EU if his methods and his way to govern will be maintained after the end of the present Italian legislature, but he surely cannot be considered Merkel’s heir. And the concern is that Italy after new elections could fall in another period characterized by Eurosceptic rulers, losing all the leadership possibly gained by Draghi.


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