Europe Geopolitics – December 15, 2021

Leo Nelissen | December 15th, 2021

The German CDU is failing to re-invent itself after the election loss, which is great news for Olaf Scholz. Meanwhile, Boris is on thin ice as some of his own party members are voting against him. We also cover that Lithuania is unlikely to get any support in its fight with China. In France, Macron is campaigning without having announced his candidacy, using state-owned TV to give him publicity. He also met with Orbán to discuss common interests. 

1.  GERMANY

1.1 The traffic lights can rejoice – the Union is becoming a scrap yard – Welt

“Renewal” is the big word that the CDU and CSU have been constantly using since their election defeat. They want to use the coming years in opposition to reposition themselves, to present new heads, to develop new thoughts and ideas. But this is precisely where the party is already failing at the first decisive step.

The posts in the parliamentary group have just been redistributed. But it was not new heads, young aspiring politicians, who were elected; Merkel’s old government team or the established personnel of the last legislative period were elected.

For example, ex-agriculture minister Julia Klöckner will head the working group (AG) on the economy. She is thus something of a counterweight to Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). Why her? Because she wanted it. Former Education Minister Anja Karliczek has also reappeared. She heads the Working Group on Tourism. Several ex-secretaries of state could not do without either. Even Jens Spahn is pushing his way back into the limelight after the two Corona horror years, becoming deputy parliamentary group leader and is supposed to counter Finance Minister Christian Lindner. Former head of the Chancellor’s Office Helge Braun becomes chairman of the budget committee. Regardless of the fact that he wants to become party leader.

[…] But the truth is also that hardly any of the younger candidates dared to run for office. Yet the new appointments contain a conflict that could weigh heavily on the resurgence of the CDU/CSU. This is also an attempt to hem in the future party leader Friedrich Merz, who is expected by most.

This is likely to have been the intention above all of Union faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus, who sees his post as endangered by Merz. Declared Merz opponents such as Braun and Gröhe thus got good posts. Brinkhaus has secured the solidarity of the veteran and therefore also influential figures – at the price that the Union now once again looks pretty old.

Comment: A great article to keep in mind going forward. The CDU/CSU parties are still lagging the SPD in the polls and just started to recycle politicians instead of focusing on changing the party.

The author is right, as this is great news for the traffic light parties of Germany’s new coalition (SPD, Greens, liberal FDP):

“So the Union is still functioning according to the fatal pattern that led to Armin Laschet’s candidacy for chancellorship and the party’s downfall. It is not about a richness of ideas, about charisma, precisely about – renewal. It is about power, sinecures, hierarchy, tradition. For this, the parliamentary group accepts to present faces that the population has seen and heard enough of. The traffic lights can rejoice.”

1.2 “Lauterbach shouts “fire” in order to play fire brigade – even though there is no fire” – Welt

The new health policy spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Tino Sorge, sharply rejects accusations by Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) that there will be a significant vaccine shortage in the first quarter of 2022. “A look at the facts shows that this is a transparent political manoeuvre to distance the SPD from the grand coalition and to start a campaign against us,” reads a letter Sorge sent to members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group on Wednesday and obtained by WELT.

“Karl Lauterbach calls for fire in order to then play fireman – although he knows that there is no fire at all,” the letter continues. There are “8.5 million doses of Biontech and more than 20 million booster doses of Moderna”, which have already been delivered to the vaccination centres. By the end of the year, “two million doses of Biontech and about 20 million booster doses of Moderna” would be added, which the federal government would still deliver.

“With the vaccine deliveries that have already taken place and those still planned for December, more than 10 million doses of Biontech and 40 million booster doses of Moderna will be available for the booster campaign by the end of the year,” said Sorge. “This means that there is enough vaccine to offer in the short term to the 34 million vaccinated adults who have not yet received a booster vaccination – regardless of when the second vaccination was administered.

In addition, more than 16 million doses of mRNA vaccine per month would be delivered in the first quarter of 2022.

Comment: Lauterbach wants to become Germany’s COVID saviour. In order to achieve this, he needs to get the narrative going that he is inheriting a total mess. This is clearly not the case. Germany did fail to get people vaccinated ahead of the surge in cases, but there is nothing stopping him from accelerating his own vaccination campaign after taking office last week.

2.  UNITED KINGDOM

2.1 Johnson suffers biggest rebellion of premiership – The Telegraph

Boris Johnson has suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership as 98 of his own MPs voted against plans for Covid passes.

The prime minister mounted a last-ditch charm offensive as he told Tory MPs that he had “absolutely no choice” but to introduce the measures.

He told the 1922 committee of backbenchers that only a small proportion of those infected with the Omicron variant would need to go to hospital before it becomes a “real problem”.

In a bid to appease concerns he suggested that he would recall parliament in the event that the government needs to introduce further restrictions during recess.

However, his reassurances were not enough to stop his biggest rebellion so far, eclipsing the previous record of 54 Tory MPs against him.

The scale of the rebellion was far greater than anticipated by either Number 10 or whips and represents a significant blow to Johnson’s authority.

The government received the almost-universal support of Labour MPs for the measures, giving them a comfortable majority. These measures will require people to provide evidence that they have been vaccinated or have received a negative result on a lateral flow test.

[…] Sir Desmond Swayne, another former minister from Cameron’s government, was more pugnacious. The government, he said, had been “absolutely complicit” in creating a “ministry of fear” during the pandemic. He said that “200 and 350 people will die of flu” on a “typical winter’s day”, asking: “Do we hide behind our mask? Do we lurk at home working from home? Do we demand that people provide their bona fides before going to a venue? Do we require people to be vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs?”

Comment (The Times): […] The sheer size of the rebellion was remarkable. The parliamentary Conservative Party is now home to a large-scale open rebellion against government policy on the most important question of the day, and arguably one of the most important questions of the century. The government does not have its own majority to support measures it wishes to take on Covid-19.

[…] It has been said that Johnson is relying on Labour votes to see him through. In truth it is really the rebels who are relying on Labour. For if Labour withdrew its support it would immediately become apparent how serious the threat is to government policy from dissident Conservative MPs. And how this dissent might leave parliament facing one way and the government the other.

Whatever the exact numbers this time, Johnson’s government is now dependent upon Sir Keir Starmer to provide a stable majority for its central policy. How long can such a position endure? How reliable is it? And isn’t Starmer entitled to insist that if his party is sustaining Covid policy, he ought to be consulted on what it is?

[…] One thing that can be done about this, of course, is to repeal the act. And this will soon happen. But the other is for Conservative MPs to recover some sort of self-discipline. They cannot expect other people to support an administration that they do not trust themselves. Voters are entitled to ask if the Conservative Party any longer has the will and unity to govern effectively.

And if MPs are not willing to show self-discipline then they should at least show courage. Anyone who thinks the prime minister is incapable of judging the need for public health measures in a pandemic is someone who thinks there should be a different prime minister. If that’s what they think, they should say so.

2.2 Rebels? Those who voted against the Government are the true Conservatives – The Telegraph

Please don’t call the MPs who voted against vaccine passports ‘Tory rebels’. In my book, those upstanding men and women are the true Conservatives. Rather, it is those who pushed through this repellently un-British measure, with the help of the Labour Party, who are the traitors to our philosophy.

That stirring creed of liberty that trusts grown-ups to make the best decisions for their own families and does not seek to ostracise people for refusing to provide proof of a medical treatment to go to the theatre or the footie. All I can say is, thank God there are people in Parliament who are prepared to take arms against this sea of senselessness, this tsunami of pseudo-scientific scaremongering.

[…] As Cates put it: “The new measures threaten to cement a permanent shift in the balance of power between the Government and the British people that has been brought about by two years of ‘hokey-cokey’ restrictions on our freedom. This is a shift that is no doubt being celebrated by those on the Left, but it should chill Conservatives to the core.”

[…] I was fretting that yet more children would be murdered or abused in their homes during the Work From Home order. I have been heart-flutteringly, not-sleeping anxious that we would see a repeat of this time last year, with that deadening sadness millions of us experienced when we knew for sure that we would not be reunited with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and siblings. The season of Ho! Ho! Ho! turns into Oh No! NO!, should hospitals happen to run short of beds. Is this perpetual, sickening uncertainty really how it’s going to be every winter – the Ghost of Christmas Lost rattling its lonely chains?

[…] As I was writing this, there landed a fresh blow to the Government’s campaign of fear. The first major study found that omicron was likely to be 23 per cent less severe than the delta variant, with those of us who are double-jabbed still enjoying good protection. Far fewer people needed intensive care for omicron, with just five per cent of cases admitted to ICU compared with 22 per cent of delta patients.

Comment: It is truly remarkable to see that a big part of a governing party is voting against what a lot of people consider important anti-COVID measure. The “true” conservatives want a more efficient NHS and a back to normal based on new pandemic statistics. Other European governing parties often vote in unity and even do a U-turn on their COVID views when entering office (like the liberal FDP in Germany who now support mandatory vaccinations).

Yesterday, Jordan Peterson published a lengthy op-ed in The Telegraph called “Why I love Great Britain”. The following part perfectly fits what we are currently witnessing in British politics – freedom:

“But the people of Great Britain have granted the world a gift whose power stands in permanent opposition to our most appalling proclivities as individuals and societies. That gift is the political expression of the sanctification of the word — freedom in speech, imagination and thought: freedom to engage in the very process that builds and rebuilds habitable order itself from the chaos that eternally surrounds us. And that freedom is expressed in many ways, small and great, in the British Isles: in the wit of its people, in the effectiveness of its institutions, in the beauty of its art and literature, in the political and psychological presumptions that guide private discourse and public conception and action.”

2.3 Boris is in deep trouble – The Spectator

This evening feels eerily familiar to anyone who remembers the meaningful votes of Theresa May’s premiership. The Tory rebellion on the Covid measures is bigger than expected; the rebels are claiming to be the mainstream of the parliamentary party; the cabinet ministers loyalists to the PM are blaming the whips office; there are mutterings about how long this can go on for. There is, of course, one crucial difference: thanks to Labour, Boris Johnson won tonight’s vote. But it is clear that if he wants to tighten restrictions further, he will be reliant on Starmer’s party’s support in doing so. Relying on the opposition to get their business through is never a comfortable place for a Prime Minister to be.

[…] The size of the rebellion — 100 MPs — is a shot across the bow of No. 10. There’ll be those rebels whose sole concern was vaccine passports, but there’ll be lots of others who wanted to send a message that they wouldn’t put up with any more restrictions and others who wanted to vent their fury at Boris Johnson. It is quite something for this many Tory MPs to rebel minutes after their leader had made a direct, personal appeal to them to support him at the 1922 committee of backbenchers.

It isn’t clear how Boris Johnson gets out of the bind he is in. Chris Whitty’s warning to the cabinet suggests that he thinks more restrictions will soon be needed, which will only further strain Johnson’s relations with his own party. At the same time, Tory MPs have begun to talk openly about when there might be a leadership contest if things don’t improve — Geoffrey Clifton Brown, the treasurer of the 1922 committee, has done an interview tonight saying there’ll be a confidence vote next summer if things don’t improve.

Johnson can hope that the North Shropshire by-election might be a Tory hold on Thursday: I suspect Number 10 would — despite how safe this seat normally is — bite your hand off for any majority there at all. In terms of the next month, he has to hope that the booster campaign can start doing really big numbers, so he doesn’t end up having to go for more restrictions. But tonight he is, undoubtedly, in the weakest position of his premiership to date.

3.  EUROPEAN UNION

3.1 Lithuania shows China’s coercive trade tactics are hard to counter – FT

It has been two weeks since the doors to the Chinese market slammed shut to Lithuanian products.

Accounting for just 0.2 per cent of global exports, the Baltic nation’s problem is negligible for the rest of the world. But it is just the latest example of China wielding a weapon against which other countries have yet to find a shield: coercive economic statecraft.

Beijing has been targeting foreign companies or industries to “punish” their governments for policies with which it disagrees. Measures have included a suspension of rare earth exports to Japan after a maritime clash off the disputed Senkaku Islands, a curb on Norwegian salmon imports after the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo and a ban on Australian wine and barley imports in retaliation for Canberra’s demand for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19.

In the same vein, after Lithuania allowed a Taiwanese representative office to open in Vilnius, it disappeared from the Chinese Customs Administration’s country list on December 1, making it impossible for companies to file customs paperwork.

[…] “Such off-book measures, of which China has a whole range, are not something the US or other democratic countries can use because they go back to the party’s control over the economy,” says Kilcrease, co-author of a new report on how other countries can respond to Chinese economic coercive economic statecraft. “In the US we are constrained by the legal authority we have in place.”

Turning to the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement mechanism can take years to yield a result, and may not even be an option because governments lack proof that the Chinese authorities are behind a boycott or import disruption.

[…] European observers agree. Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China said the measures had “no immediate impact on multinational corporations” because there was virtually no sourcing from Lithuania. “But it is a stark warning for other EU countries not to follow the Lithuanian example,” he said. “The Czech and Slovakian economies, for example, are deeply embedded into the German car supply chains.”

[…] The EU has threatened to take China to the WTO if all obstacles preventing Lithuanian exports from accessing the Chinese market are not removed. Brussels has also presented an “anti-coercion instrument” with which it wants the EU to retaliate against such economic coercion.

Comment: Lithuania is finding out what it is like to stand up against China. China is even urging European multinationals to cut ties with Lithuania.

Yesterday, Dombrovski, EU trade commissioner met with Lithuania’s foreign minister Landsbergis. He reiterated that political pressure against EU member states is not acceptable but failed to articulate what the EU intends to do about it.

As we discussed last week, the EU commission is working on new tools to impose sanctions on foreign countries. However, this won’t come into effect until late 2022 or early 2023 and is under fire from multiple countries because it could be a “commission power grab”.

Another big problem is that individual states in the EU want to have good ties with China – regardless of human right abuses and its international geopolitical operations. France wants to protect multi-billion dollar deals between Airbus and China while Germany is dependent on the Chinese consumer to buy its cars. BMW just revealed to exclusive build the electric 3-Series in China. 

In other words, the EU feels for you Lithuania, but good luck dealing with this on your own.

4.  FRANCE

4.1 Macron is abusing power with two-hour TV interview, says presidential rival Valérie Pécresse – The Times

The main challengers to Emmanuel Macron have accused him of abusing his powers by taking over France’s biggest television channel for a two-hour evening chat that his aides claim has nothing to do with his re-election campaign.

Valérie Pécresse, candidate for the conservative Republicans party, has protested to the High Broadcasting Council (CSA), the state regulator, saying Macron’s interview on TF1 tomorrow night, called “Where is France heading”, should be counted as part of his quota of campaign airtime for the April elections.

“We cannot have a ‘candidate-president’ who has the television channels open to him on demand and spends hours campaigning while his opponents have to make do with the five minutes allotted to respond to him,” she said. “This is not my conception of democracy. I am asking the CSA to restore equality of speaking time and democratic fair play”, she added.

Pécresse, who has leapfrogged the other challengers in opinion polls over the past week to become a serious threat to Macron, said the president had deliberately timed his session to be broadcast on the night that she had been due to appear for a long interview on BFMTV news. The network cancelled her invitation so it can report on the Macron broadcast, which was recorded on Sunday in the Elysée palace. “Macron’s people are beginning to panic,” Pécresse said.

Presidents running for re-election are allotted one third of total campaign air time, with two thirds to the other candidates, but the rules apply only when they declare their candidacy. Macron is not expected to do that until next month although he has been focused for weeks on pleasing potential voters with television appearances, provincial visits and the provision of new subsidies and benefits.

Comment: Nicolas Beytout mentioned the fear of Valérie Pécresse in his comments. While his opponents are legally wrong to call him out, they are politically right. It’s a push to give Macron much-needed air time to combat the threat from the right.

“Except that the CSA considers that until 1 January, we are outside the election period, which means that speaking time is counted in three thirds: one for the head of state and his government, one for the majority and one for the rest for the opposition. I would add that when the President speaks about the running of the State (the regal or international), his speaking time is not counted.

Emmanuel Macron can thus multiply his appearances on TV. The opponents are therefore legally wrong. But they are politically right: because this sustained presence on TV is starting to be very conspicuous. As Valérie Pécresse says, “we are far from democratic fair play”. So much so that one wonders if all this does not reflect a little anxiety about the rise of Valérie Pécresse.

So far, the La République en Marche majority has been ineffective in responding to the rise of the official candidate of the Republican right. It is up to the President to play. But I doubt he will do as well as the ratings for the last election on TF1, that of Miss France, last Saturday: more than seven million viewers.”

It also doesn’t help that Pécresse opposes the idea of a federal European state, an idea both Scholz and Macron are pushing forward. As we discussed yesterday, it’s one of Macron’s main projects that could very well become his legacy – if he gets what he wants.

This battle is far from over. If anything, giving Macron additional airtime will make Pécresse an anti-mainstream candidate, which could help her in the polls. 

Moreover, The Telegraph reports that France is slipping down the power rankings of powerful economic nations.

“France has slipped down the rankings as a global industrial power, the country’s state auditor warned, as it laid into the country’s ‘mediocre’ schools and costly and bloated cultural sector.

The Cour des Compte said that France had “been exposed to a greater de-industrialisation trend than its main partners” between 2004 and 2019, based on World Bank figures on manufacturing added value as a percentage of GDP.

In a series of unprecedented notes on the country’s “structural failings, the state auditor also heaped criticism on its “declining” school system and an out-of-date culture ministry whose role as a “ticket office” to hand out mass subsidies verged on cronyism.”

This is exactly what French right-wing voters are fearing – the loss of French power and influence in the world. This is not going to be solved by giving Macron more time on air. 

4.2 Left-wing primary: Arnaud Montebourg tries everything with Yannick Jadot, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Fabien Roussel – Le Monde

He promises to do everything possible to convince the left-wing candidates to submit a common candidacy for the 2022 presidential election. Arnaud Montebourg, candidate of La Remontada de la France who proposed on Wednesday a common candidacy, advanced the same day by Anne Hidalgo, called on Friday 10 December Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Yannick Jadot and Fabien Roussel to convince them to join the initiative.

If these calls, filmed and broadcast by the candidate on social networks, ended with a message on answering machines, Jean-Luc Mélenchon finally called Mr Montebourg back. The latter’s team told Le Monde that the two men had a “long exchange”. He also left a voice message for Anne Hidalgo, who also proposed a left-wing primary on Wednesday.

Less than twenty-four hours after the Socialist candidate’s call for union, the “insoumis” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the ecologist Yannick Jadot and the communist Fabien Roussel, have refused to accept. Only Arnaud Montebourg was pleased with the news.

For Mr. Mélenchon, this decision is far too late and impromptu to gather everyone around the same project. “It would take place at the end of January and then we have two months to develop a program and a government? It’s such an improvisation…”, he said.

Yannick Jadot scoffed at the idea: “There is a desire [for the mayor of Paris] to break the deadlock with a surprise idea. The candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), however, estimated on Thursday evening that “this answer is too quick to be serious” and “will undoubtedly move” under pressure from voters and supporters.

Comment: Arnaud Montebourg is trying to get a left-wing coalition behind him in the fight against Macron and the right. In a poll conducted by Opinionway, he came in third as candidates were ranked based on their perceived ability to get a majority behind them. He came in behind Pécresse and Macron. 

In the poll, voters had to judge each candidate on a scale from excellent or unacceptable.

Montebourg is a viable candidate for the left because he wants made-in-France production, relocation and an ecology that relies on nuclear power. He is the second choice for many voters on the left and the right.

Other than that, Le Pen is no longer rejected by the majority like she was in 2017. Yet, she is far from a favourite as she is battling both Zemmour (who came in last in this poll) and Pécresse to make it into the second round next year.

5.  HUNGARY

5.1 Macron in Hungary: No rule of law progress until April – POLITICO

Hungary won’t budge in its standoffs with the EU over the rule of law before a general election in April, French President Emmanuel Macron said after meeting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest on Monday.

“There is very little progress on these issues, there is a clear Hungarian will not to make progress on these questions before the April elections,” Macron told a group of reporters, including POLITICO, during his one-day visit to Budapest.

Macron twice confused Hungary with Poland in his response to questions by reporters but was clear he had explicitly discussed issues related to rule of law, minority rights — including LGBTQ+ rights — and corruption in Hungary in his one-on-one meeting with Orbán.

“We have disagreements that I reaffirmed very clearly,” Macron asserted.

Orbán shared that assessment at the final press conference of the Visegrad Group summit, during which both leaders showed a warm disposition toward each other, often facing one another when they spoke, even though they were on stage with their Polish, Czech and Slovak counterparts.

Orbán said there are often “serious debates” and occasionally “sharp debates” between himself and Macron but that he likes the arguments.

“Debate is only bad if there is no quality in it; if a debate has quality that’s good.”

At the press conference, Orbán claimed Hungary’s allocation from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund was being withheld due to the country’s controversial anti-LGBTQ+ law, at which point Macron jumped in to clarify that in fact, it was because of issues related to corruption and public procurement.

Macron’s main objective in coming to Budapest to meet with Orbán and take part in the Visegrad Group summit was to secure the support of the Central European countries for the main themes of an ambitious agenda he set for the upcoming French presidency of the Council of the EU, such as moving forward on an EU migration pact, climate action, the so-called “Strategic Compass” plan meant to bolster the bloc’s military capabilities, as well as “strategic autonomy” for both the EU’s economy and its defense.

[…] On Monday, Orbán said he and Macron agree on three things: that they love their homelands; that both are working to strengthen Europe; and that Europe needs strategic autonomy. For Hungary, according to Orbán, strategic autonomy means a European defense industry, nuclear energy and a strong agriculture sector.

Comment: Macron needs Orbán. Orbán is key in EU border security and could be a big help in Macron’s plans to integrate nuclear energy in the EU’s taxonomy. The LGTB fight seems to be secondary to that – it is not even the reason Hungary doesn’t have access to EU funds yet. L’Opinion covered the meeting between the two and concluded the same:

While France will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union in less than three weeks, the French head of state declared last week that the Hungarian nationalist leader was both a “political opponent” and a “European partner” with whom it is possible to reach political compromises. A statement validated by the Hungarian Prime Minister. Among the disagreements between France and Hungary are the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, with Emmanuel Macron even speaking a few months ago of a “cultural battle” with Hungary and some other Eastern European countries such as Poland.

On the other hand, the president mentioned “convergences of views” on other subjects such as immigration, notably on “political governance” of the Schengen area or better protection of the EU’s external borders. Paris and Budapest also agree on the promotion of nuclear energy in the ongoing debate on the classification of energies likely to contribute to the EU’s ecological transition, and on agricultural policy.

6.  ITALY

6.1 Italy’s succession dilemma: It only wants Mario Draghi – POLITICO

Italy has found one person it can agree on — Mario Draghi. And that’s a problem.

The harmony around Draghi, Italy’s respected banker-turned emergency prime minister, was initially a salve for a pandemic-bruised country. Now, however, that same consensus is imperiling the country’s brief period of political stability.

Next month, Italy must choose a new president, a figure meant to represent national unity who officially appoints the prime minister. The odds-on favorite? Draghi.

But Draghi is still wanted as prime minister. Italy is at a critical moment: Billions in recovery funds are on their way, the pandemic is still circulating and major structural reforms are in the works, as well as planned reforms to EU debt rules in 2022.

That means a lot is hinging on the outcome, with no easy answer.

On the plus side, Draghi as president — in a seven-year term — could secure Italy’s long-term international credibility. But Draghi as prime minister may also deliver Italy from the pandemic and set it on a more equal economic footing.

Conversely, Draghi as president would create a power vacuum at a risky moment socially. But Draghi as prime minister may also wear out his welcome, as has happened to others before him.

“Italy’s problem is that it needs continuity, but there are two possible paths,” Stefano Ceccanti, a constitutional lawyer and lawmaker from the center-left Democratic Party,” told POLITICO. 

“The risk is that if we enter a period of instability at this moment, the leading position in which we find ourselves in Europe is precarious,” he added, citing leadership turnover in Germany and the upcoming French election. “And if Draghi goes to the presidency and we go to elections, it could be cataclysmic, with unpredictable effects.”

[…] If Draghi became president, he could install a close collaborator like Economy Minister Daniele Franco as prime minister to help oversee the process. But without Draghi’s personal brand, keeping political parties in line and adhering to the EU’s timeline might be a struggle.

“I don’t see anyone else capable of keeping together such a heterogeneous majority,” Antonio Tajani, vice president of Forza Italia, the conservative party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said recently. 

Comment: Another name that makes the newspapers almost on a daily basis is Berlusconi. Unlike Draghi he does not represent stability or integrity. He has support from Salvini and Meloni, neither of whom are opposed new elections. However, he’s a long shot. Italians will have to find a way to represent stability with Draghi – regardless of his position. After all, the Italian recovery is built on expectations. Without QE from the ECB, the country would enter a debt crisis. The country is lagging behind and desperately needs reforms to reduce bureaucracy, increase SME’s access to funding, and to increase productivity. These issues are far bigger problems than the question what Draghi’s resume looks like next year. The worst thing, for Italy, is that the market thinks that only stability caused by Draghi can deliver on these economic improvements. So, that’s what we are working with for now.

Additionally, an important point is that Draghi is not the only force that is keeping Italy from falling apart. The Italian right-wing is not anti-EU. Neither Fratelli nor Lega are looking to an EU exit. Many of the Lega’s supporters in the Northern Italian small business community are very pro-European. Italian populism is mainly aimed at immigration, but no EU exit.