Mario Draghi urged the EU to streamline its decision-making and deepen economic integration as the Union seeks to respond to the upheaval triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Italy’s prime minister told the European Parliament on Tuesday that the EU must embrace “pragmatic federalism” in several policy areas, including defence, foreign policy and economic burden-sharing, given the unfolding crisis in the EU. ‘is. If the reforms force the EU to reopen its treaties, it must be ready to do so, he added.
“The institutions put in place by our predecessors over the past decades have served European citizens well, but they are insufficient given the reality we face today,” he said in Strasbourg. “We need a pragmatic federalism: a federalism that encompasses all areas affected by the ongoing transformations – from the economy to energy to security.”
The EU reacted swiftly to the Ukrainian crisis, triggering multiple rounds of sanctions against Moscow and offering generous terms to Ukrainian refugees. However, the crisis is prompting some policymakers to call for bolder reforms given the Russian threat.
Among Draghi’s proposals is a call for the EU to drop the requirement that most common decisions on foreign and security policy must only be adopted unanimously by member states. It comes as they debate this week whether to impose further sanctions on Russia, including an oil embargo – a proposal that has met with resistance from EU capitals including Budapest.
“We must go beyond this principle of unanimity, which leads to a logic of crossed vetoes, and move towards decisions taken by qualified majority”, declared Draghi. “A Europe capable of taking timely decisions is a Europe [that] is more believable vis à vis its citizens and vis à vis the world.”
Among Draghi’s other proposals are improved joint mechanisms to manage migration and greater defense coordination. While the combined defense spending of EU member states is about three times that of Russia, he said the EU operates a total of 146 defense systems, compared to just 34 in the US.
Such fragmentation of defense spending, he said, was “a profoundly inefficient allocation of resources, which hampers the building of genuine European defence.” To tackle this problem, he urged the EU to convene a conference on rationalizing and optimizing member states’ defense spending.
Draghi also renewed calls for the EU to build on its common response to the Covid-19 crisis, including in the area of common borrowing.
This could involve extending a joint EU unemployment insurance scheme to allow loans to member states that need help mitigating rising energy costs, he said. .
Furthermore, he argued that the EU should build on its €800 billion NextGenerationEU economic reconstruction plan to support investment in defense and industrial security.
Meanwhile, Draghi reiterated Rome’s strong support for Ukraine and its EU membership, although he said Italy hoped for a truce that would pave the way for negotiations.
“In a war of aggression, there can be no equivalence between those who invade and those who resist,” he added. “To protect Ukraine is to protect ourselves and the project of security and democracy that we have built together for 70 years.”
Draghi also affirmed Italy’s support for the rapid enlargement of the EU to other members, with the immediate opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, giving a new impetus talks with Serbia and Montenegro and paying more attention to the “legitimate expectations” of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
“We welcome the entry of all these countries,” he said. “We have to follow the entry path that we have drawn but we have to move forward as quickly as possible.”