Francesco Cossiga

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Senator for life
Francesco Cossiga
Cossiga Francesco.jpg
8th President of Italy
In office
3 July 1985 – 28 April 1992
Prime Minister Bettino Craxi
Amintore Fanfani
Giovanni Goria
Ciriaco De Mita
Giulio Andreotti
Preceded by Sandro Pertini
Succeeded by Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
President of the Italian Senate
In office
12 July 1983 – 3 July 1985
Preceded by Vittorino Colombo
Succeeded by Amintore Fanfani
42nd Prime Minister of Italy
In office
4 August 1979 – 18 October 1980
President Alessandro Pertini
Preceded by Giulio Andreotti
Succeeded by Arnaldo Forlani
Minister of the Interior
In office
12 February 1976 – 11 May 1978
Prime Minister Aldo Moro
Giulio Andreotti
Preceded by Luigi Gui
Succeeded by Virginio Rognoni
Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
In office
12 June 1958 – 11 July 1983
Constituency Cagliari-Sassari
Personal details
Born (1928-07-26)26 July 1928
Sassari, Italy
Died 17 August 2010(2010-08-17) (aged 82)
Rome, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Christian Democracy
Italian People's Party
Democratic Union for the Republic
Union of the Centre
Spouse(s) Giuseppa Sigurani (m. 1960; div. 1998)
Children Anna Maria
Alma mater University of Sassari
Profession Teacher, navy officer[1]
Religion Roman Catholicism

Francesco Cossiga, OMRI (Italian pronunciation: [franˈtʃesko kosˈsiːɡa]; 26 July 1928 – 17 August 2010)[2] was an Italian politician of the Christian Democracy party. He was the 42nd Prime Minister of Italy from 1979 to 1980 and the eighth President of Italy from 1985 to 1992. He was also a professor of constitutional law at the University of Sassari.

Cossiga was born in Sassari in northern Sardinia.[2] He started his political career during World War II. His name is now usually pronounced [kosˈsiːɡa], but it was originally pronounced [ˈkɔssiɡa], with the stress on the first syllable, meaning "Corsica"[3] in Sardinian and Sassarese. He was the cousin of Enrico Berlinguer.[4]

Minister for the Christian Democrats[edit]

He was a minister several times for the Democrazia Cristiana party (DC), notably during his stay at Viminale (Ministry for internal affairs) where he re-structured the Italian police, civil protection and secret services.

He was in office at the time of the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro by Red Brigades, and resigned when Moro was found dead in 1978.[5] According to Italian journalist Enrico Deaglio, Cossiga, to justify his lack of action, "accused the leaders of CGIL and of the Italian Communist Party of knowing where Moro was detained".[6] Cossiga was also minister of internal affairs when Fascist terrorists bombed Bologna station in 1980. Francesco Cossiga first assumed the explosion to have been caused by an accident (the explosion of an old boiler located in the basement of the station). Later, in a special session to the Senate, Cossiga supported the theory that neofascists were behind the attack, "unlike leftist terrorism, which strikes at the heart of the state through its representatives, black terrorism prefers massacre because it promotes panic and impulsive reactions."[7][8]

Cossiga was elected President of the Italian Senate 12 July 1983, a position he held until 24 June 1985, when he became the President of Italy.

Election as President of Italy [edit]

Following his resignation as president of the Senate in 1985, Cossiga was elected as President of Italy. This was the first time an Italian presidential candidate had won on the first ballot (where a two thirds majority is necessary).

Cossiga during his Presidency.

It was not until his last two years as President that Cossiga began to express some unusual opinions regarding the Italian political system. He opined that the Italian parties, especially the DC (his own party) and Italian Communist Party, had to take into account the deep changes brought about by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.[9]

These statements, soon dubbed "esternazioni", or "mattock blows" (picconate), were considered by many to be inappropriate for a President, and often beyond his constitutional powers; also, his mental health was doubted and Cossiga had to declare "I am the fake madman who speaks the truth."[9] Cossiga suffered from bipolar disorder and depression in the last years of his life.[10]

Tension developed between Cossiga and Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. This tension emerged when Andreotti revealed the existence of Gladio, a stay-behind organization with the official aim of countering a possible Soviet invasion through sabotage and guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. Cossiga acknowledged his involvement in the establishment of the organization.[11][12] The Democratic Party of the Left (successor to the Communist Party) started the procedure of impeachment (Presidents of Italy can be impeached only for high treason against the State or for an attempt to overthrow the Constitution).[13][14] Although he threatened to prevent the impeachment procedure by dissolving Parliament, the impeachment request was ultimately dismissed.

Cossiga resigned two months before the end of his term, on 25 April 1992.[15]

Lifetime senator[edit]

According to the Italian Constitution, after his resignation from the office of President, Cossiga became lifetime senator, joining his predecessors in the upper house of parliament, with whom he also shared the title of President Emeritus of the Italian Republic.

In February 1998, Cossiga created the Unione Democratica per la Repubblica (a political party), declaring it to be politically central. The UDR was a crucial component of the majority that supported the D'Alema government in October 1998, after the fall of the Prodi government which lost a vote of confidence.

Cossiga declared that his support for D'Alema was intended to end the conventional exclusion of the former Communist Party (PCI) leaders from the premiership in Italy.

In 1999 UDR was dissolved and Cossiga returned to his activities as a senator, with competences in the Military Affairs' Commission.[16]

In May 2006 he brought in a bill that would allow the region of South Tyrol to hold a referendum, where the local electorate could decide whether to remain within the Republic of Italy, take independence, or become part of Austria again.[17]

Funerals of Cossiga in Sassari, 2010.

On 27 November 2006, he resigned from his position as a lifetime senator. His resignation was, however, rejected on 31 January 2007 by a vote of the Senate.

Cossiga died on 17 August 2010 from respiratory problems.


In 2007, Cossiga wrote (referring to the 2001 September 11 attacks): "all democratic circles in America and of Europe, especially those of the Italian centre-left, now know that the disastrous attack was planned and realized by the American CIA and Mossad with the help of the Zionist world, to place the blame on Arab countries and to persuade the Western powers to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan".[18][19] However, the previous year Cossiga had stated that he rejects theoretical conspiracies and that it "seems unlikely that September 11 was the result of an American plot."[20][21]

Francesco Cossiga with Giulio Andreotti.

In the same statement, Cossiga claimed that a video tape circulated by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and containing threats against Silvio Berlusconi was "produced in the studios of Mediaset in Milan" and forwarded to the "Islamist Al-Jazeera television network." The purpose of that video tape (which was actually an audio tape) was to raise "a wave of solidarity to Berlusconi" who was, at the time, facing political difficulties.[18]

In 2008, Francesco Cossiga said that Mario Draghi was "a craven moneyman".[22]

Cossiga attributed the cause of the crash of the Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870, killing all on board, while en route from Bologna to Palermo, in 1980, to a missile fired from a French Navy aircraft. On 23 January 2013 Italy's top criminal court ruled that there was "abundantly" clear evidence that the flight was brought down by a missile.[23]

Honours and awards[edit]

As President of the Republic, Cossiga was Head (and also Knight Grand Cross with Grand Cordon) of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (from 3 July 1985 to 28 April 1992), Military Order of Italy, Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, Order of Merit for Labour and Order of Vittorio Veneto and Grand Cross of Merit of the Italian Red Cross. He has also been given honours and awards by other countries.


  1. ^ Tito Lucrezio Rizzo (2012). Parla il Capo dello Stato. Gangemi Editore. p. p. 181. 
  2. ^ a b Page at Senate website (Italian).
  3. ^ Cossiga, Dizionario d'ortografia e pronuncia RAI
  4. ^ (Italian) Mio cugino Berlinguer: Cossiga racconta un leader (Cossiga talking about Enrico Berlinguer in an interview to Gian Antonio Stella – Corriere della Sera, 10 June 2004) (Italian)
  5. ^ Sassoon, Donald (18 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga obituary". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ Deaglio, Enrico (18 August 2010). "La lepre marzolina che attraversò la storia senza pagar dazio". L'Unità. 
  7. ^ "Police search starts for Bologna bombers". The Globe and Mail. 5 August 1980. 
  8. ^ "Neo-Fascists 'Prefer Massacre'". Reuters. 6 August 1980. 
  9. ^ a b The Washington Post: Veteran Italian politician Cossiga dies
  10. ^ "I medici: da Pasqua smise di curarsi". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Bloomberg: Francesco Cossiga, Italy's Combative Former President, Dies at Age 82
  12. ^ "Italy: Former president Francesco Cossiga dies at 82 - Adnkronos Politics". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  13. ^ (Italian) Il Sole 24 ore: Occhetto, lo strappo mai ricucito su Gladio
  14. ^ (Italian) La Repubblica: Il PDS vota l'impeachment di Cossiga (4 December 1991)
  15. ^ (Italian) La Repubblica: E l'uomo grigio prese il piccone (26 April 1992)
  16. ^ (Italian) Cossiga's activity as a Senator, on the Senate's website
  17. ^ Cossiga, Francesco (8 June 2006). "Riconoscimento del diritto di autodeterminazione al Land Südtyrol – Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano" (PDF). Disegno di Legge Costituzionale N. 592. Senato della Repubblica XV Legislatura. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  18. ^ a b "Osama-Berlusconi? "Trappola giornalistica"". Corriere della Sera. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  19. ^ Scherer, Steve; Totaro, Lorenzo (17 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga, Italy's Combative Ex-President, Dies at 82". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Sassoon, Donald (18 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga obituary". The Guardian. London. 
  22. ^ Francesco Cossiga told that during an interview at the morning television program "Uno Mattina", Rai Uno Video on YouTube
  23. ^ "Italian court: Missile caused 1980 Mediterranean plane crash; Italy must pay compensation". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 23 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Italian Minister without portfolio
Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Preceded by
Luigi Gui
Italian Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
Virginio Rognoni
Preceded by
Giulio Andreotti
Prime Minister of Italy
Succeeded by
Arnaldo Forlani
Preceded by
Sandro Pertini
President of the Italian Republic
Succeeded by
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Italian Senate
Preceded by
Title jointly held

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Preceded by
Vittorino Colombo
President of the Italian Senate
Succeeded by
Amintore Fanfani
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Lifetime Senator

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Italian Chamber of Deputies
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of Parliament for Sardinia

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Masayoshi Ohira
Chair of the G7
Succeeded by
Pierre Trudeau