Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said the European Union needs to emerge stronger from the historic challenges thrown up by the war in Ukraine, including by expanding eastwards.
The conflict, he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, was “a security, humanitarian, energy and economic crisis all rolled into one” that had revealed existing EU institutions to be “inadequate” in their response.
The answer, he argued, was “pragmatic federalism” with streamlined decision-making that would get rid of member state vetoes that currently are often able to block majority stances.
“This is the start of a path that will lead to treaty revision. And if that’s going to be the case, we should embrace it,” he said, to applause by MEPs.
Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank credited with saving the euro from collapse 10 years ago, said EU enlargement eastwards was key, including by taking in Ukraine.
“We need to fully integrate countries that have European aspirations,” he said.
He voiced Italy’s support for “the immediate opening up of accession negotiations” with Albania and North Macedonia, and for reinforced negotiations with Kosovo and Bosnia.
“We’re in favour of all of these countries joining the European Union and we also want Ukraine as a member of the European Union,” he said.
Days after Russia invaded in February, Ukraine pleaded for fast-track entry into the EU.
Brussels responded by saying the process was rigorous, complex and took years, but offered Kyiv a speeded-up preliminary evaluation stage.
Albania and North Macedonia have been poised to start the accession process since 2020, but have been in limbo because of objections from Bulgaria and conditions imposed by Germany and the Netherlands.
Draghi also called for Europe to move more rapidly towards greater defence integration.
He told EU lawmakers that military spending across the bloc was “deeply inefficient” due to its distribution across more than 130 individual armed forces and organisations.
He praised the European Council’s plan of action to strengthen the EU’s security and defence policy by 2030 but said it was “necessary to go quickly beyond these first steps”.
Draghi underlined Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened “peace on our continent”.
He affirmed his backing of continued military support as requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, arguing “protecting Ukraine means protecting ourselves”.