EU Must ‘Become a State,’ Ex-Central Bank Chief Draghi Says, as Top Tory Official Tells Ursula von der Leyen To ‘Shut Up’ Over Brexit

Expansion of the EU eastward, or at all, is looking like an increasingly uncertain, wrong-headed, chimerical, illogical, expensive, and statist proposition.

AP/Andrew Medichini
The Italian premier, Mario Draghi, at Parliament at Rome, July 21, 2022. AP/Andrew Medichini

Remember Mario Draghi? He is Italy’s former prime minister whose resignation in July 2022 cleared a path for Giorgia Meloni to lead the country. Before that he headed the European Central Bank. He once said that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, and now is saying that the European Union should become a single state.

Mr. Draghi’s curious prescription for curing the EU’s growing pains essentially by making it bigger come at the same time a leading British parliamentarian, Lee Anderson, has taken a swing at the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, by telling her off over her wishful thinking about reversing Brexit. 

Adding Hungary’s various beefs with Ukraine and Brussels’ growing frustrations with Budapest to an already volatile mix, the expansion of the EU eastward, or at all, is looking like an increasingly uncertain, wrong-headed, chimerical, illogical, expensive, and statist proposition. 

Speaking at an event organized by Politico, a fiercely pro-EU publication owned by German media giant Axel Springer, the peripatetic Ms. Von der Leyen said that “Thank God, with the Windsor agreement” — the post-Brexit legal agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom which adjusted the workings of the Northern Ireland Protocol — “we had a new beginning for old friends. Very important.”

 She then took a dig at Britain’s decision to leave Brussels behind, saying “I keep telling my children, you have to fix it. We goofed it up. So I think here, too, the direction of travel, my personal opinion is clear.”

Not for the first time, Ms. Von der Leyen’s tone-deaf comments rankled many, including the deputy chairman of Britain’s  Conservative Party, Lee Anderson. “The generation that fixed the problems in Europe was my grandad’s generation,” Mr. Anderson told GB News, adding,” He put a British Army uniform on… he went to fight the Nazis,” and saw “some horrible things. That was the generation that fixed the problems in Europe.” He added that Ms. Von der Leyen “needs to shut up.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Sunak stated that Mr. Sunak did not agree with Ms. Von der Leyen that Brexit was something that future generations had to “fix.”

What on earth, then, was Mr. Draghi talking about? It was during a book presentation that the usually level-headed statesman said that he was “worried” about where Europe is heading. “Today, the growth model has dissolved and we need to reinvent a way of growing,” he said, adding, “but to do this, we need to become a state.” 

As he correctly noted, fragmented EU regulations in virtually every sector slow down the day-to-day operations of the bloc, particularly in response to emergencies but not only those. He also took a potshot across the Atlantic, blaming America for keeping the EU’s market potential down. “There are so many markets [within the EU] and therefore the small companies that are born in Europe, as soon as they grow, they sell or go to the United States,” he said. 

It was not immediately clear whether for Mr. Draghi the notions of greater centralization of EU member states’ power and expansion of the bloc are mutually exclusive, but right now other more tangible problems are on the table. 

Friction between Brussels and Budapest is coming to a head  this month, particularly over the potential accession of Ukraine to the European Union. Not only does Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, want to keep the matter off the agenda at an EU summit this month, but he would like to kick the issue down the road for another five to ten years. 

Instead Mr. Orban has proposed that Brussels conclude a strategic partnership agreement with Kyiv. He may be on to something: consider that right now, the EU cannot even reach a consensus about allocating a potential $50 billion-plus in fresh aid for Ukraine. 

Countries like Hungary are flies in the ointment of leading Eurocrats like Mr. Draghi and Ms. Von der Leyen, for whom national differences of opinion are nugatory. But they are not. The Ukraine issue is only one such divisive matter and is likely to fade in importance once the war is over. 

Yet as Brussels increasingly swallows whole a radical “woke” social agenda emanating from certain American shores, some of its member states like Hungary simply will not be having it. 

Then there is the matter of economic powerhouse countries like the Netherlands, newly eyeing mini-Brexits of their own — or a Nexit, in the Dutch case.

If all this looks like a complicating factor for growing the EU like a giant beanstalk, count on the Brussels powers-that-be to look right past it — at least until it collapses on them.


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