In the aftermath of the euro crisis, the “backlash against integration” is Europe’s biggest political problem, according to Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Speaking at a dinner hosted by the Friends of Europe think-tank in Brussels on Thursday (11 October), Monti said the economic crisis is “undermining the raw material on which European integration is constructed” and has evoked a “north against the south” split.
He added that there is an urgent need for EU heads and states to have a “free discussion in the European Council about this.”
Monti referred to June’s EU summit as a significant turning point because member states finally realised that it is not enough to simply keep one’s own financial house in order if your neighbour’s house is burning.
But he said he could not be sure if EU leaders will stick to promises made at the event.
EU leaders in June agreed to establish a banking union with a new supervision mechanism to allow the eurozone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to inject capital into troubled banks.
In this context, next week’s EU summit should be measured “not only on what it achieves, but on what it sticks to,” Monti said.
Looking ahead, the Italian politician said the European Commission should in future have more power to enforce internal market rules, an area where member states have for years been falling behind on promised implementation.
He also said more should be done to fight tax evasion and that “we need to reconstruct credible fear of public authorities.”
The quiet acceptance of tax evasion should be replaced by social responsibility, said Monti. He admitted that to create this kind of new culture would mean “nothing short of a war,” however.
Monti is one of Europe’s longest-serving politicians.
He trained as an economist before serving as competition and internal market commissioner for almost 10 years, from 1995 to 2004. Since November 2011, he has been non-elected Italian prime minister stepping into fill the void after Silvio Berlusconi resigned. Monti has never been a member of a political party.
Asked what he will do when his term as Italian leader comes to an end in spring, he said he would not run for elections as it would risk breaking the newly-established and fragile co-operative spirit between Italy’s main political parties.
He noted he does not need to be re-elected as he already enjoys life-long senator status.
“But should there be areas where I could be helpful, then I’m ready,” he said.