Watch out, Macron! Italian PM named ‘most powerful man in Europe’ in blow to French leader

Italy 'will be friends with UK no matter what' says MEP

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The Italian Prime Minister has been in charge of Italy since February after being named as the technocratic leader of the country following a political crisis. According to Politico’s list of most influential people in Europe, Mr Draghi is the number one person to watch for the year to come.

The former European Central Bank (ECB) chief has been put in charge of the biggest EU’s recovery fund in the bloc, as Italy became the most affected country in Europe by the pandemic.

In a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will lead the presidency of the European Council next year, Mr Draghi has quickly managed to position himself as the stable leader of the EU – partly thanks to Angela Merkel’s departure from German politics after 16 years.

Politico wrote of the Italian leader: “Ever since Brexit, the European Union has lacked a third power player to counter Paris and Berlin.

“With Draghi, Italy has a leader that can drag the country into the heart of European affairs — just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s departure opens up a space for him as the EU’s de facto leader, on economic affairs at the very least.

“That will be especially true if Draghi can cement a working alliance with French President Emmanuel Macron and Merkel’s successor Olaf Scholz, creating a centrist trio that could dramatically change the way Europe ticks.”

They added: “Draghi is no stranger to adversity. He lost both parents in his teenage years, forcing him to adjust to adulthood early. After that came his studies at MIT as an economist and a stint at the World Bank.

“He subsequently worked at the Italian treasury, Goldman Sachs, the Bank of Italy and the ECB.

“An unshowy, academically minded 74-year-old, he is best known for stabilising financial markets as ECB president in 2012 by declaring that he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to save the euro. True to his word, it proved enough.

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“The euro held during the financial crisis and the debt crisis.”

However, Mr Draghi is not expected to remain in power for long as Italians must head to the polls in 2023 in a race in which the former ECB chief would certainly not participate.

President Emmanuel Macron is facing his electorate next April.

Last month, the two leaders signed a new bilateral treaty that represents a major step forward in ties between the two nations and will usher in a period of much closer cooperation in an array of fields.

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Speaking alongside President Macron, Mr Draghi said the two countries would launch “new forms of cooperation” in energy and technology and in research and innovation.

He added that at least once every quarter, an Italian minister will attend a French cabinet meeting, and vice versa.

He said: “The Treaty of Enhanced Cooperation we signed this morning marks a historic moment in relations between our two countries.

“France and Italy are further consolidating their diplomatic, commercial, political and cultural ties.”

The Quirinale Treaty, named after the residence of the Italian president, is aimed at enhancing cooperation between Paris and Rome in areas including defence, migration, the economy, culture and trade.

The signing ceremony came shortly after a new coalition pact was agreed in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged especially close ties with successive French leaders.

Originally envisaged in 2017, negotiations on the new treaty ground to a halt in 2018 when a populist government took office in Rome and clashed with Macron over immigration.

Relations hit a low in 2019 when Macron briefly recalled France’s ambassador to Italy, but there has been a renaissance this year following the appointment of former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to lead an Italian unity government.

The Quirinale Treaty, loosely modelled on a 1963 Franco-German pact, is expected to lead to Paris and Rome seeking common ground ahead of EU summits, just as France already coordinates key European policy moves with Germany.

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