Milano, 1 April 2019
Europe? Never so indispensable and never so difficult. It’s a clear-cut judgment and with a high specific weight, considering that it comes from one who has observed Europe for a long time and from different perspectives: as European Commissioner for two terms and as Italian Prime Minister called to rescue – in addition to the Italian public accounts – a relationship with the EU that was dangerously in deep trouble. With his typical aplomb and irony, Mario Monti offered the students of SDA Bocconi MBA at a meeting of the Leadership Series the point of view of a “European” leader by history, culture, and belief. A “concerned but not desperate” look, as he himself said.
“Saying that everything is going to change in Europe is probably an exaggeration,” Monti affirms, convinced as he is that the anti-European movements that exist in all the Member States, to different extent, will not prevail in Strasbourg. “However, there is no doubt that the management and the life itself of the European Union will become more difficult.” But it can also be seen in another way.
Competition strengthens and helps: it is a rule that also pertains to politics. “Europeanism has been rather unchallenged for several decades and perhaps has exhausted its initial impetus, that of the Founding Fathers. With the growing number of antagonists there’s a need to find new energy. Europeanism will no longer be able to proceed by inertia but will have to find new, stronger motivation to support the EU”. It’s the political economist who speaks: “This is what happened, conversely, to the evolution of capitalism: when the system of ‘checks and balances’ guaranteed by the competition with socialist economies ended, it degenerated into an increasingly financial and ‘short-termist’ capitalism, less and less concerned with wealth redistribution”.
Where can we start to change Europe? The question by Francesco Daveri, MBA Director, calls for the realism of one who has known the EU mechanisms from within: “Institutions reforms are important but terribly difficult because most of them require unanimity of the Member States”. And Monti has no doubts in pointing out the ultimate reform, “the one on taxation, for which unanimity should no longer be required. It will not be easy at all, because it’s a very thorny matter and Member States will always tend to protect themselves from the risk of ending up in a minority”, leaving Brussels with the role of the “bad guy”. The conclusion is a statement in perfect Monti-style: “The most important thing to revitalize Europe? A bit more serious behaviour in politics”.
SDA Bocconi School of Management