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Draghi: EU needs ‘pragmatic federalism,’ more integration

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday urged the EU to embrace a “pragmatic federalism” that would include ditching national vetoes and could involve treaty change.

“We need a pragmatic federalism that encompasses all areas affected by ongoing transformations — from the economy to energy to security,” Draghi told the European Parliament in his first speech to MEPs as Italian prime minister. “If this requires the start of a path that will lead to the revision of the Treaties, we should embrace it with courage and confidence.”

In light of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Draghi called on capitals to give Brussels more power on defense and to abandon unanimity, which is required for EU decisions on foreign policy and other areas.

“We must go beyond the principle of unanimity, which gives rise to an intergovernmental logic of clashing vetoes, and move towards decisions taken by qualified majority,” he said, prompting applause from MEPs.

Such calls have previously run into resistance from other EU governments, particularly among some smaller countries, who fear being steamrollered by larger member states if they do not have the right of veto.

To make his case for major reforms, Draghi recalled landmark moments of recent Western history — such as World War II and the end of the Soviet Union — arguing that new treaties and treaty changes followed each of them.

Since he became prime minister last year, Draghi has insisted on close Italian alignment with NATO and the U.S. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Draghi broke with his country’s traditionally soft stance on Russia, backing sanctions against Moscow and military support for Ukraine.

While welcoming the EU’s bid to become more autonomous on defense, Draghi also called for more coordination of efforts. “Our security spending is about three times that of Russia, but it is divided into 146 defense systems. The United States has only 34,” he said.

“It’s a profoundly inefficient distribution of resources that hinders the building of a true European defense,” Draghi added, while calling for a “conference to rationalize and optimize … military spending.”

He also called for more EU financial support for member countries and companies dealing with the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, in the form of funds modeled on those used to face the COVID crisis.

Draghi proposed using the blueprint of SURE — a fund used to grant temporary support via loans and avoid massive unemployment — to help capitals support families and businesses. When it comes to long-term investments, he proposed following the example of the post-pandemic recovery fund NextGenerationEU. Brussels is also considering adapting those funds to the new crisis.

The speech also gave Draghi the opportunity to repeat that he wanted “Ukraine in the European Union” and that, more broadly, he was in favor of welcoming Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo into the EU.

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