SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

‘Stability and peace’: Italian PM Draghi’s farewell warning to EU leaders

Italy's outgoing PM Mario Draghi used his last day on the European stage Friday to warn fellow leaders and his far-right successor that a united Europe should remain their "guiding star".

'Stability and peace': Italian PM Draghi's farewell warning to EU leaders
Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at an EU leaders Summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on October 21, 2022. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

European leaders gave Draghi, a hero in Brussels during his former decade-long leadership of the European Central Bank (ECB), a warm round of applause on the last day of his final EU summit.

The 75-year-old economist was due to be replaced later on Friday as Italian prime minister by far-right eurosceptic Giorgia Meloni, leader of the post-fascist party Brothers of Italy.

As leader of the ECB in 2012, Draghi was hailed as the saviour of the euro when he faced down markets during the sovereign debt crisis, famously declaring he would do “whatever it takes” to stabilise the currency.

In Brussels, EU chief Charles Michel led tributes to Draghi at the summit table, thanking him for his work and “artful phrases, and a concise, brief and powerful style”.

The leaders were played a brief tribute video and, according to a European official in the room, Draghi received a long and warm round of applause before delivering his remarks.

READ ALSO: Far-right leader Meloni set to be named Italy’s first woman PM

“Part of the video statement says that the European Union is the guiding concept for all our countries,” he said.

“They all look at the EU as a source of security, stability and peace. We have to keep this in mind as a guiding star for the future, especially in troubled times like these.”

Mario Draghi (L) speaks with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz (2nd L), President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (2nd R) and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (R) on October 21, 2022. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The message could have been directed to his Italian nationalist successor in Rome, but also to some of Draghi’s fellow European leaders at the meeting in Brussels.

Draghi came to the summit angry over resistance to a European price cap on gas imports, accusing richer countries like Germany of out-spending smaller partners to shield their own citizens from the energy shock.

A spokesman said Draghi warned of the negative impact on European unity if countries with more fiscal firepower go it alone, and urged the creation of a “common spending capacity” to cushion consumers across Europe.

This was fiercely opposed by the EU’s so-called frugal countries – led by the Netherlands and Germany – which insist that the bloc already has enough money on hand to help governments face the crisis.

After hours of discussion, the carefully-worded summit statement reflected a difficult compromise, stressing “the importance of close coordination and of common European level solutions, where appropriate”.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Just weeks after going on trial in a case brought by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano was back in court on Wednesday facing allegations of defamation lodged by Meloni's deputy, Matteo Salvini.

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini, whose far-right League party is a key member of Meloni’s coalition, is suing the journalist for calling him the “minister of the criminal underworld” in a social media post in 2018.

In November, Saviano went on trial in a case brought by Meloni for calling her a “bastard” in 2020 over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

READ ALSO: Press freedom fears as Italian PM Meloni takes Saviano to trial

Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but won September elections on a promise to curb mass migration.

Saviano, known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, regularly clashes with Italy’s far-right and says the trials are an attempt to intimidate him.

He faces up to three years in prison if convicted in either trial.

“I think it is the only case in Western democracies where the executive asks the judiciary to lay down the boundaries within which it is possible to criticise it,” Saviano said in a declaration in court on Wednesday.

He said he was “blatantly the victim of intimidation by lawsuit”, on trial “for making my opinion, my thoughts, public”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about press freedom in Italy

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the suits to be scrapped. Meloni refused in November, despite criticism that her position of power makes it an unfair trial.

Armed guard

Saviano has lived under police protection since revealing the secrets of the Naples mafia in 2006.

But when Salvini was appointed interior minister in a previous government in June 2018, he suggested he might scrap Saviano’s armed guard.

The writer reacted on Facebook, saying Salvini “can be defined ‘the minister of the criminal underworld’,” an expression he said was coined by anti-fascist politician Gaetano Salvemini to describe a political system which exploited voters in Italy’s poorer South.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia author Saviano won’t be ‘intimidated’ by Salvini

He accused Salvini of having profited from votes in Calabria to get elected senator, while failing to denounce the region’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia and focusing instead on seasonal migrants.

Salvini’s team are expected to reject any claim he is soft on the mafia.

Saviano’s lawyer said he will call as a witness the current interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who at the time was in charge of evaluating the journalist’s police protection.

The next hearing was set for June 1st.

Watchdogs have warned of the widespread use in Italy of SLAPPS, lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists or whistleblowers.

Defamation through the media can be punished in Italy with prison sentences from six months to three years, but the country’s highest court has urged lawmakers to rewrite the law, saying jail time for such cases was unconstitutional.

Saviano is also being sued by Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano in a civil defamation case brought in 2020, before Sangiuliano joined the cabinet.

A ruling in that case could come in the autumn. If he loses that case Saviano may have to pay up to 50,000 euros in compensation, his lawyer told AFP.

Italy ranked 58th in the 2022 world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, one of the lowest positions in western Europe.

SHOW COMMENTS