Sunday 18 March 2018

Draghi eclipses Sarkozy as emerging emperor of Europe

Paul Taylor

Napoleon dreamed of it, De Gaulle fought for it, but Nicolas Sarkozy may have achieved it -- a Europe of Nations with France in the cockpit and Britain on the sidelines.

The French president emerged as one of the big winners of the EU summit.

"Of course this is not just a long-standing desire, but a long-standing goal of French politics . . . because in the French tradition Britain never really belonged to the European Union, dating back to De Gaulle," said a senior EU official, referring to the French president's veto of British entry in 1963 and again in 1967.

For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit was a more ambiguous success.

She achieved her primary goal of anchoring strict German-style budget discipline, with automatic sanctions on deficit and debt offenders. That should calm rebels in her coalition angry at successive bailouts of eurozone weaklings.

But Ms Merkel failed to keep the new "stability union" inside the EU treaty, due to Mr Cameron's obduracy, making it harder to use key institutions such as the European Commission and Court of Justice to enforce fiscal rectitude.

Another winner was European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi.

Barely a month in office, he has already exercised decisive influence, shaping the emerging eurozone "fiscal compact", while warding off efforts to hijack the bank to bail out governments.

Hours before he came to the summit, the ECB had taken two decisive steps to shore up the euro area, cutting its interest rates to a record-low 1pc and crucially extending long-term liquidity help to Europe's banks.

After watching former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi back away from austerity plans and reforms he had promised to implement as soon as the ECB started buying Italian bonds in August, Mr Draghi is determined to avoid a repeat.

So while Mr Sarkozy went some way towards realising Napoleon's dream, it is Mr Draghi, for now, who looks like the new emperor of Europe.

Irish Independent

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