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20th May 2022

EU should drop unanimity in foreign policy, Italian PM says

  • Italian premier Mario Draghi said the EU should also help to mitigate the economic crisis from Russia's war (Photo: European Parliament)
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Italian prime minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday (3 May) called for the EU to abandon its unanimity requirement on foreign policy decisions, and prepare for treaty changes after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The 74-year-old former European Central Bank chief told European lawmakers that Europe should move towards "pragmatic federalism" to better equip itself in dealing with economic, energy, defence and foreign policy.

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"If this will require starting a process to change EU treaties, we should embrace it," Draghi said in Strasbourg.

He argued that the EU needs to improve its decision-making to respond to Russia's attack which called into question peace on the continent.

"We must overcome this principle of unanimity, which leads to a logic of crossed vetoes, and move towards decisions taken by a qualified majority," Draghi said, calling the war in Ukraine a "security, humanitarian, energy and economic" crisis-in-one.

Using a qualified majority, which means that 15 out of 27 EU countries, representing at least 65 percent of the total EU population, is needed to back a decision, would make it impossible for one single country to block decisions.

"A Europe which is capable of taking rapid decisions is a Europe that is more credible towards its citizens and to the rest of the world," he added.

EU countries' have faced a tough challenge to their unity in agreeing to sanctions against Russia, as Baltic countries and Poland want to move faster with measures while Hungary have said energy bans are a red line.

Draghi reiterated that Italy would back any energy-related sanctions against Russia, despite its own heavy reliance on Russian gas imports.

The strong support of Draghi's government for sanctions on Russia has been seen as a policy shift for Rome which has for decades — particularly under the premiership of former PM Silvio Berlusconi — had warm relations with the Kremlin.

New emergency fund

Draghi said the "geopolitical situation is changing rapidly and we have to move fast", and added that the EU needs to build a "fairer and sustainable social model".

Draghi called for the EU to deploy financial tools to mitigate the economic fallout from Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Italian premier warned that national budgets alone could not finance the spending necessary to uphold sanctions imposed on Russia without risking domestic upheaval.

"We need strong and immediate decisions," Draghi said.

Draghi said the EU should extend the scope of its unemployment scheme to help member countries shield their economies from soaring energy prices.

"I am referring to measures to reduce bills, but also to temporary support for lower wages, for example through tax relief," Draghi, who is credited with saving the euro during the 2010s euro crisis, said.

For long-term investments in areas such as defence, energy, food and industrial security, the model should be the Covid-19 recovery plan, he added, a grant and loans package to help the economy against the fallout of the pandemic.

He called for better coordination and more efficient spending on European defence.

Draghi said the new realities "require an acceleration in the European integration process", adding that his country supports the accessions of Albania, North Macedonia and Ukraine.

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