Draghi Says Joint EU Action on Defense, Migration Is ‘Essential’

  • ECB president receives De Gasperi prize in Trento, Italy
  • Says sharing sovereignty in some areas only way to preserve it

Mario Draghi.

Photographer: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Mario Draghi said it is “essential” that Europe’s leaders take joint action in areas such as defense and migration if they want to regain the support of citizens for the European Union.

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“There are many areas in which Europe does not need to get involved,” the European Central Bank president said in a speech on Tuesday in Trento, Italy. “But there are also important areas where it clearly needs to, and where European initiatives are not just legitimate, but even essential. Today this notably includes the fields of migration, security and defense.”

Draghi’s comments come three days before an EU summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, to discuss the future of the continental project, which has been roiled by youth unemployment, a refugee influx, growing support for populist parties and the U.K.’s vote to quit the bloc. Leaders have pledged to focus on the issues that most concern the union’s 500 million citizens, such as terrorism, migration and the consequences of globalization.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will speak to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday in his annual “State of the Union” speech. He intends to outline policy areas ranging from defense to investment.

‘Real Danger’

Draghi has played a decisive role in keeping the euro area together since the global crisis, pushing through measures including bond-purchase plans and emergency liquidity for Greek lenders. His strategies have bought time while governments have struggled to agree on action. In the process, he has been repeatedly accused of overstepping his mandate to focus on price stability.

The ECB head, who won’t attend the Bratislava summit, has stepped up his calls in recent months for governments to deliver structural reforms and complete the institutional set up of the euro area.

In his speech, Draghi said unresolved internal divisions such as a failure to complete the economic and monetary union pose a “real danger” in Europe.

“It is one we cannot afford,” he said. “We need to find the strength and wisdom to resolve our differences and go forward together.”

Right Direction

The ECB president said recent discussions on enhancing tax fairness or creating a European unemployment insurance scheme go in the right direction of moderating the negative impact of European integration while ensuring its continuation.

Draghi spoke after being awarded the “Europe’s builders” prize in memory of Trentino-born statesman Alcide De Gasperi, Italy’s post-war prime minister and a pioneer of European unity. Previous winners include German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Czech dissident and president Vaclav Havel, and EU Commission President Romano Prodi.

“National sovereignty remains in many respects the fundamental element of each country’s government,” Draghi said. “But for challenges that transcend national borders, the only way to preserve sovereignty -- that is, to make the voice of citizens heard in a global context -- is for us Europeans to share sovereignty within the EU.”

— With assistance by Carolynn Look

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