Super Mario. Far from a game, it’s what the European elite have long called Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. With Germany’s Angela Merkel headed for the exit and France’s Emanuel Macron facing a competitive election, Draghi appears poised to establish himself as the face of the European political center.
Plagued by decades of bureaucratic bloat and glut, Italy has experienced a precipitous number of governments (Conte, Gentiloni, Renzi, and Berlusconi in the last decade alone) and an economy that consistently lagged its European counterparts. Worsening economic divisions between northern and southern Italy created a regional political schism that newer Populist parties like The Five Star and The League, had some success exploiting (both parties had played parts in previous governments).
Then came COVID-19, which devastated Italy and put the nation on life support.
Enter Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, recruited out of a life of semi-retirement earlier this year by senior Italian officials who implored him to serve on a “temporary” basis. He agreed, bringing Italy back from the brink and successfully revitalizing the country by making progress previously deemed impossible.
Draghi has improved public sector laws, enacted pension reform, and pushed for an overhaul of the judicial process, specifically focusing on expediting the porous commercial litigation process. He has been ahead of the rest of Europe in combatting the energy crisis, offering low- and middle-income workers subsidies to offset the rising costs associated with a shortage of natural gas.
He is also taking action to position Italy back at the apex of European power. Last week, Draghi and Macron signed the “Quirinale Treaty” calling for increased collaboration on a host of issues. Modeled after a similar 1963 agreement between France and Germany, the signal is clear—Macron sees Draghi as a partner to replace the outgoing Merkel.
Draghi’s term runs until 2023, and he will continue pushing his domestic Italian reform agenda. Simultaneously Draghi’s deep knowledge of the EU, its players, and its political levers, sets him up to be a dominating figure in Brussels.
Super Mario, he just might be.