Former ECB head Draghi sounds out businesses to boost EU competitiveness

By Elvira Pollina and Giselda Vagnoni

MILAN (Reuters) – 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 continent’s competitiveness.

Draghi has been mandated by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to come up with proposals to revitalise the bloc’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 on the 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 the European parliamentary vote 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.

He recently called for an EU fiscal union and warned that without a change in the bloc’s decision-making mechanism, the entire EU project was doomed to failure.

“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 Chairman 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.

ERT members, which claim 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.

Italian daily La Repubblica said last year French President Emmanuel Macron wanted Draghi as the new EU 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. ($1 = 0.9135 euros)

(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni in Rome and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Keith Weir and Sharon Singleton)