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‘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”.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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