Former ECB head Draghi consults business chiefs on EU competitiveness

Milan: Mario Draghi met business leaders in Milan on Wednesday as the former Italian prime minister and European Central Bank chief prepares a report on how to boost the EU’s competitiveness.

Draghi has been mandated by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to come up with proposals to revitalise the European Union’s economy in the face of competition from China and the United States.

He will have talks with Von der Leyen and other EU commissioners in Brussels on Friday about progress on the report, which is expected to be delivered in June or July.

“This is one of the many meetings we are having in the course of this report. Today is with industry and I will listen,” Draghi told reporters as he entered the Bank of Italy’s building in Milan.

The meetings come as Draghi, 76, has been floated as a potential option for a top EU job after European parliamentary elections in June.

A source close to Draghi has denied he is interested in a role in European institutions, but Italian political sources said he would not withdraw if there was a consensus on his candidacy.

“Draghi has given and will continue to give his contribution to the European Union project. The competitiveness report will be an important one, but it is too early to talk about appointments,” the source close to Draghi said.

Vodafone chair Jean-François van Boxmeer and his Siemens counterpart Jim Hagemann Snabe were among the participants at the closed-door meeting with a delegation of the European business lobby Economic Round Table (ERT), according to a statement.

Asked after the meeting if Draghi had hinted at a future political role in Brussels, Boxmeer told reporters: “This is a very political question. You don’t have to ask me.”

ERT members, which boast combined revenues exceeding 2.0 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion), have called for improving the coherence of the European regulatory environment and putting innovation at the centre of policymaking.

“The biggest challenge that we face is being successful in the energy transition that we need to do for stabilizing the climate,” Boxmeer said, speaking in English.

“At the same time keeping our industry alive and competing with the rest of the world, America but also China, and keeping our innovation level at pace”.

Italian daily La Repubblica said last year French President Emmanuel Macron wanted Draghi as the new European Commission president.

On Tuesday the Financial Times reported that Draghi was tipped as a potential head of the EU council by EU officials and diplomats after current head Charles Michel decided to run for the European Parliament.

The former Bank of Italy governor headed a unity government in 2021-2022. His lack of political affiliation is seen as a hurdle as the bloc’s top posts tended to be distributed along political lines.