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For Mario Draghi, European Council rather than Commission

Mario Draghi, former European Central Bank (ECB) chief, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for one of the EU’s top jobs after June’s elections

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, June 3, 2024

“Mario Draghi never reveals his plans until he comes to power,” De Benedetti said.
“Mario Draghi never reveals his plans until he comes to power,” De Benedetti said.

by Laurent Geslin

Mario Draghi, former European Central Bank (ECB) chief, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for one of the EU’s top jobs after June’s elections, and while the Commission presidency appears reserved for the centre-right EPP a window of opportunity could open up at the European Council.

The political alliances that will decide the face of the EU institutions for the next five years will be finalised only after the ballot, but that has not stopped the rumour mill, and Draghi, 76, is one of the main names doing the rounds.

According to Bloomberg, French President Emmanuel Macron is negotiating with several European leaders to install Draghi, who led the Italian government between February 2021 and October 2022, in the chair of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is campaigning to secure a second mandate.

“There is immense mutual esteem between Macron and Draghi. The two men have the same European commitment, they speak the same grammar and have the same economic vision,” said researcher Marc Lazare, a specialist in Italian politics.

“Their ties were strengthened by the need for a European response to Russian aggression, by supplying arms to Ukraine, whereas Draghi had always had very Atlanticist convictions.”

As early as December 2021, Macron and Draghi called for a reform of the budgetary rules defined by the Maastricht criteria to allow for more investment spending – the only way, in their view, to compete effectively with the industrial powers of the United States and China.

Charged with drafting a report on the EU’s competitiveness, which will be delivered after the elections, Draghi also recommended injecting €500 billion a year into Europe’s economies to speed up the green and digital transitions.

Meanwhile, Macron is campaigning for a ‘joint investment shock’, a position reaffirmed in his speech on Europe at the Sorbonne on 25 April. But his days as France’s president are numbered, and his influence could suffer after the poor election results expected from his political faction – the Renaissance list and the Renew group.

According to Francesca De Benedetti, a specialist in European affairs for the newspaper Domani, Macron is trying to push Draghi’s candidacy “to weaken Ursula von der Leyen, who is herself being challenged within the European People’s Party (EPP).”

A top job for Draghi?
However, it will be difficult for Macron to force the hand of his European partners, especially as the European centre-right is likely to come out on top again in the elections and thus retain the right to the Commission presidency.

But “There are other possibilities,” explained a senior member of the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party, who is also very close to Draghi.

“Ursula van der Leyen should be reappointed as head of the Commission, even if she has made things difficult for herself by opening the door to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Giorgia Meloni. But Mario could take the head of the European Council,” the LR source added.

To achieve this, the European Socialists must be persuaded to support Draghi. They are expected to come second in the elections and could negotiate for the centre-right to put forward their own candidate for the post.

Not an impossible equation, journalist Mario De Pizzo explained in The Atlantic Council. While the most serious contender to lead the Council remains former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa, Draghi is respected by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Chancellor Olaf Scholz, while the secretary of the Italian Democratic Party (PD), Elly Schlein, has publicly supported his investment plans.

According to De Benedetti, the Socialists “will never say during the campaign that they might support Mario Draghi, but they may end up doing so”.

“Draghi also has a good relationship with Giorgia Meloni, with whom he negotiated the transition of power after resigning as prime minister [in July 2022]”.

“Mario Draghi is not a politician; he’s a technocrat, and that’s why he could take on the role of mediator,’” said Lorenzo Castellani, a specialist in the history of political institutions at Rome’s Luiss Guido Carli University.

However, Draghi has said on several occasions that he is not a candidate for any position for the time being, but not everyone is convinced.

“Mario Draghi never reveals his plans until he comes to power,” De Benedetti said.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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