Mario Draghi and Italy’s political stability are gone. What is the next step for Europe?


After days of political turmoil, Mario Draghi resigned as Italy’s prime minister on Thursday, sending shock waves through the European political establishment whose very stability he helped secure.

Draghi’s resignation, which triggered a snap election likely to take place in September, plunges Italy into a new period of political instability and calls into question its economic recovery and its leading role in the response to the crisis. Russian aggression. “It’s Europe’s time and we must seize it,” Draghi said in May when the Atlantic Council honored him with a Distinguished Leadership Award.

Who will seize the moment now? We asked Atlantic Council experts Karim Mezran, a Libyan-Italian scholar and director of the Rafik Hariri Center’s North Africa Initiative and Middle East programs, and Frances Burwell, a prominent Europe Center fellow, to decide on the future of Europe. .

Draghi’s resignation was widely touted as a destabilizing development for Europe. Why is that?

The resignation of Mario Draghi presents enormous risks for Italy, Europe and the transatlantic coalition supporting Ukraine. Under Draghi, Italy became much more influential in Europe; for the first time in years he was not the focus of European Union (EU) concern but a leader in EU circles. As Europe heads into an energy crisis and the euro is collapsing, just having Draghi in EU ruling circles would have been reassuring, as he would have brought good advice to the European Council. He has also been a strong supporter of Ukraine at key times, including being an early advocate for granting the country EU candidate status.


As a former president of the European Central Bank, Draghi is a prestigious director who had the ability to help Italy through turbulent times. Draghi is seen by many – both in Italy and in the eurozone more broadly – as a unifying and strong figure with the financial, political and economic savvy to avert the economic disasters that could unfold as the two-year pandemic continues to unfold. spread. disrupt supply chains. Let’s not forget either that Italy is the third largest economy in the European Union after Germany and France. A destabilized Italy will therefore certainly destabilize the entire European Union.


Italy under Draghi has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine amid its war with Russia. Could this change?

There are those on the right, including [former Prime Minister] Silvio Berlusconi and [former Interior Minister] Matteo Salvini, who has close ties to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A right-wing government in Rome could have a significant negative effect on Europe’s continued military aid to Ukraine and on sanctions against Moscow. It’s also hard to ignore that this government crisis was sparked by the populist Five Star movement, which opposed Italy’s strong support for Ukraine. Draghi was ousted not by an erosion of public support for his government, but by crude political maneuvering among Italian political factions. The ultimate beneficiary may well be Vladimir Putin.


Of course, it is possible – and some have even gone so far as to say that pro-Russian political forces in Italy orchestrated Draghi’s downfall. The Five Star Movement and Lega parties are the two most pro-Putin parties in Italy, and are also responsible for the collapse of the Draghi government.


And on the economic front? What does it mean for Italy and the EU to lose an experienced manager in these turbulent economic times?

Current polls indicate that there is a real possibility that a right-wing government and a far-right prime minister will come to power. Many of these parties have no solid track record of successful economic management and are more than willing to use Eurosceptic rhetoric if it advances their political fortunes. This is unlikely to be constructive in Italy’s negotiations with the European Commission over more than two hundred billion dollars in pandemic recovery aid.


It could well be a disaster. Italy is expected to receive additional funding from the EU recovery plan to help avoid a post-pandemic economic downturn. But without a stable government, it becomes difficult to imagine who will implement the necessary reforms and the objectives set by the EU. On Thursday evening, the Italian stock market was already down 1.6% on the news and the euro had weakened.


If you could give one piece of advice to the next Italian Prime Minister, what would it be?

My only advice would be to think of Italy and the EU first, rather than their own political ambitions.


They should exercise their influence and power to assure the European Union that Italy is a reliable and loyal partner, capable of undergoing the reforms necessary for the implementation of the recovery plan. As for Russia and the immediate neighborhood, Italy should maintain its commitment to the pro-Ukrainian coalition and increase its involvement in the southern shore of the Mediterranean to compensate for the increase or continuation of a perception of American withdrawal.


Further reading

Associate specialists:
Frances Burwell and
Karim Mezran

Image: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi addresses the Senate ahead of a vote of confidence in the government after tendering his resignation last week following a coalition partner mutiny, in Rome, Italy, July 20, 2022. Photo by Guglielmo Mangiapane/ Reuters

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