The sphinx who reshaped Europe

Mario Draghi, the technocrat who sidelined politicians and saved the Euro, now needs them to succeed as Italy’s PM

If there was one soundbite, in Europe, in the last decade on which history turned, this was it. After a confusing preamble about a bumblebee that shouldn’t be able to fly, Draghi stopped reading from his script and, for 16 seconds, looked into the camera. “Within our mandate, within our mandate … the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the Euro.” He paused, adding, just to make sure: “Believe me, it will be enough.” Within minutes, the news hit the wires; billions shorting the Euro began to move in the opposite direction.

Mario Draghi is now Italian prime minister. The man who “saved the Euro” has been summoned from retirement to “save Italy” from the pandemic. There is a Europe of the mind: of Beethoven, summer holidays and the smell of coffee. Then there is Europe as it actually functions today — the Europe of Mario Draghi. A creature of the EU, understand him and you understand how to make friends in Brussels; how to win the most important battles; and how to be, among 27 countries, really European. But, above all, understand Draghi and you understand how power works in the EU. He has built a technocratic Europe and risen to its heights. 

Draghi was made in Rome. Not the city of old men it is today but the Rome of Fellini, Red Brigade attacks and the Italian miracle: an emerging market in Europe, running hot with labour unrest, a communist surge and the joy of youth. But whilst his generation was wild, flirting with extremism and dreaming of new worlds on campus, Draghi was tame and burdened by responsibility. An outsider in May ’68. 

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