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A Giant of Europe Prepares to Head Italy’s New Unity Government


ROME — Mario Draghi, a giant of Europe largely credited with saving the euro, formally presented a broad unity government to Italy’s president on Friday, all but assuring that he will become prime minister at a precarious moment when the prospect of a more closely bound European Union hinges on Italy’s success.

Mr. Draghi, who is expected to easily surpass the formalities of confidence votes in Parliament next week, will be tasked with guiding Italy through a devastating and unpredictable pandemic.

But he also must secure its future by wisely and efficiently spending a once-in-a-generation relief package financed by debt raised for the first time collectively by all E.U. countries. If he succeeds, he could set a precedent. If he fails, E.U. countries are less likely to approve such a package again.

Mr. Draghi arrives in a position of rare clout in Italian politics.

A recognized statesman in Europe, he had the opposite problem of his predecessors who struggled to cobble together support to form a government. Mr. Draghi spent weeks trying to find room on his bandwagon for an ideological hodgepodge of political parties.

Pro-Europe liberals and former communists joined far-right populists who had stunningly changed their tune, anti-establishment forces desperate to be part of his establishment and a free-market media mogul who hailed the return of normalcy.

“I will read the composition of the government,” Mr. Draghi said Friday night in a terse statement that contrasted with the verbosity of his predecessor and underlined his strictly-business reputation and the urgency of his mandate.

In a previous visit to the president’s Quirinal Palace, Mr. Draghi talked about the “extraordinary resources of the European Union” and the chance it gave Italy’s future. On Friday night, he simply read a list of cabinet members that consisted mostly of politicians and a few key technocrats. Then he left.

Mr. Draghi’s varied support could cause internecine spats down the road. But lawmakers said the need to spend lots of cash very fast could also lead to meaningful reforms in Italy’s investment-repellent bureaucracy and glacial judicial system.

Those stakes are high enough. But experts, lawmakers and E.U. officials say the future of the bloc as a more integrated fiscal union is also riding on Mr. Draghi’s success in managing the hundreds of billions of euros from Brussels. They think they are in good hands.

“The fact that Draghi will lead the country in this particular moment was very, very big news here,” Paolo Gentiloni, the European Union’s economy commissioner and himself a former Italian prime minister, said in an interview from Brussels. “And very very good news.”

Mr. Gentiloni said Mr. Draghi’s arrival after the collapse of the Italian government reassured European leaders, especially because of his reputation for “caring about execution.”

Others said that Mr. Draghi’s status as a proven senior statesman was itself critical, with the union on the cusp of a potential leadership vacuum. Britain has left, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is set to step down and President Emmanuel Macron of France is facing tough elections.

For avid supporters of a more robust European Union and Italy’s leadership in it, Mr. Draghi’s arrival comes just in time.

Last year, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron overcame entrenched opposition to win approval of a 750 billion euro ($857 billion) stimulus agreement to save the economies of member states walloped by the virus. Supporters of an ever-closer European Union, who dream of debt and asset-sharing similar to that of the United States, considered the fund a major step.

For the first time, countries raised money by collectively selling bonds on the open market, and then distributing much of the money as grants, rather than loans, that do not have to be repaid to other countries in the union. This marked a critical departure from bloc rules to keep…



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