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Interview

Mario Monti: “Economic policy must change, but not out of pressure from nationalists”

Presseurop
10 May 2013

A lot can change in two years. When we interviewed Mario Monti on the sidelines of the State of the Union conference during the Festival d’Europa in Florence in 2011, the former European commissioner and president of Bocconi University spoke spontanously, during a coffee break. Now that he has added Prime Minister of Italy to his list of former accolades, a bodyguard-surrounded Monti keeps a hectic schedule at the conference’s 2013 edition. However, after a short press conference with Italian journalists eager for his views on his successor Enrico Letto's new coalition government, Monti accepted to speak with Presseurop.

Two years ago, Monti shared his thoughts on the threats of the crisis on the unique market and the euro. The future of these two pillars of the European Union now seem guaranteed, regardless of how the EU and its member states deal with the crisis. We asked Monti if he believed the current atmosphere in Europe was more favourable to resolving the crisis today than in 2011.

I have the impression that it is. We have made many concrete moves to end the crisis. We have also directed European policy toward the future, drafting an outline that is about to be finalised of a plan for a true economic and monetary union, under the guidance of the group presided by [European Council President] Herman Van Rompuy. I also believe heads of state and government are finally taking the political and psychological impact of nationalism and populism more seriously into account. I believe economic policy must change, but not out of pressure from nationalists and populists. If we want to adopt certain policies in a climate exposed to the risks presented by nationalism and populism, care must be taken to proceed with caution.

Throughout his mandate as prime minister, particularly during spring of 2012, Monti attempted, alongside French president François Hollande and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, to rebalance relations between member states and get Germany to soften its position on many issues. We asked for his thoughts on what the different perspectives and current tensions between France and Germany meant for the continuation of the European project.

I remain convinced that strong Franco-German ties are an essential condition for Europe to move forward. But if it is essential, it is also not enough. It is also very important for France and Germany not to give the impression they are being exclusive and discriminatory. I believe this was partly the case during the years of cooperation between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, and much less so now between Mrs. Merkel and François Hollande.