Giorgio Napolitano

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President Emeritus Senator for life
Giorgio Napolitano
Presidente Napolitano.jpg
11th President of Italy
In office
15 May 2006 – 14 January 2015
Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Silvio Berlusconi
Mario Monti
Enrico Letta
Matteo Renzi
Preceded by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Succeeded by Sergio Mattarella
Minister of the Interior
In office
17 May 1996 – 21 October 1998
Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Preceded by Giovanni Rinaldo Coronas
Succeeded by Rosa Russo Iervolino
Minister for Civil Protection Coordination
In office
17 May 1996 – 21 October 1998
Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Preceded by Nicola Mancino
Succeeded by Rosa Russo Iervolino
President of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
3 June 1992 – 14 April 1994
Preceded by Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Succeeded by Irene Pivetti
Personal details
Born (1925-06-29) 29 June 1925 (age 91)
Naples, Italy
Political party PCI (1945–1991)
PDS (1991–1998)
DS (1998–2006)
Spouse(s) Clio Maria Bittoni
Children Giulio
Alma mater University of Naples Federico II

Giorgio Napolitano, OMRI (Italian: [ˈdʒordʒo napoliˈtaːno]; born 29 June 1925) is an Italian politician who was the 11th President of Italy from 2006 to 2015. Due to his dominant position in Italian politics, critics often refer to him as Re Giorgio ("King George").[1] He is the longest serving President in the history of the modern Italian Republic, which has been in existence since 1946.

Although the presidency is a nonpartisan office as guarantor of Italy's Constitution, Napolitano was a longtime member of the Italian Communist Party (and of its post-Communist successors, from the Democratic Party of the Left onwards). He was a leading member of a modernizing faction on the right of the party. First elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953, he took an assiduous interest in parliamentary life, and was President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994. He was Minister of the Interior from 1996 to 1998 under Romano Prodi.

Napolitano was appointed a Senator for life in 2005 by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In May 2006, he was elected by parliament as President of Italy. During his first term of office, he oversaw governments both of the centre-left, led by Prodi, and the centre-right, led by Silvio Berlusconi. In November 2011, Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister amid financial and economic problems. Napolitano, in keeping with his constitutional role, then asked former EU commissioner Mario Monti to form a cabinet which was referred to as a "government of the president" by critics[citation needed].

When his seven-year presidential term expired in April 2013, Napolitano (then aged 87) reluctantly agreed to stand again, to safeguard the continuity of the country's institutions during the parliamentary deadlock that followed the 2013 general election. On being reelected as President with broad cross-party support in parliament, he overcame the impasse by inviting Enrico Letta to propose a government in the form of a grand coalition. When Letta handed in his resignation on 14 February 2014, Napolitano mandated Matteo Renzi (Letta's factional challenger) to form a new government. After a record eight and a half years as president, Napolitano resigned at age 89 in January 2015.[2]

Early life[edit]

Giorgio Napolitano was born in Naples, Italy, in 1925. His father Giovanni was a liberal lawyer. In 1942, he matriculated at the University of Naples Federico II. He adhered to the local University Fascist Youth ("Gioventù Universitaria Fascista"), where he met his core group of friends, who shared his opposition to Italian fascism.[3][4] As he would later state, the group "was in fact a true breeding ground of anti-fascist intellectual energies, disguised and to a certain extent tolerated".[5]

A theatre enthusiast since high school, during his university years he contributed a theatrical review to the IX Maggio weekly magazine, and had small parts in plays organized by the Gioventù Universitaria Fascista itself. He played in a comedy by Salvatore Di Giacomo at Teatro Mercadante in Naples. Napolitano dreamed of being an actor and spent his early years performing in several productions at the Teatro Mercadante.[citation needed]

Napolitano has often been cited as the author of a collection of sonnets in Neapolitan language, published under the pseudonym Tommaso Pignatelli, entitled Pe cupià ’o chiarfo ("To mimic the downpour"). He denied this in 1997 and, again, on the occasion of his presidential election, when his staff described the attribution of authorship to Napolitano as a "journalistic myth".[6] However, he published his first book, entitled Movimento Operaio e Industria di Stato, which can be translated to "Workers' Movement and State Industry" in 1962.[7]

World War II[edit]

During the existence of the Italian Social Republic (1943–1945), a puppet state of Nazi Germany in the final period of World War II, Napolitano and his circle of friends took part in several actions of the Italian resistance movement against German and Italian fascist forces.[8]

Early political career[edit]

From post-war years to the Hungarian revolution[edit]

Following the end of the war in 1945, Napolitano joined the Italian Communist Party (PCI). In 1947, he graduated in jurisprudence with a final dissertation on political economy, entitled Il mancato sviluppo industriale del Mezzogiorno dopo l'unità e la legge speciale per Napoli del 1904 ("The lack of industrial development in the Mezzogiorno following the unification of Italy and the special law of 1904 for Naples").[9] He became a member of the Secretariat of the Italian Economic Centre for Southern Italy in 1946, which was represented by Senator Paratore, where he remained for two years. Napolitano played a major role in the Movement for the Rebirth of Southern Italy for over ten years.[7]

He was first elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953 for the electoral division of Naples, and was returned at every election until 1996.[9] He was elected to the National Committee of the party during its eighth national congress in 1956, largely thanks to the support offered by Palmiro Togliatti, who wanted to involve younger politicians in the central direction of the party. He became responsible for the commission for Southern Italy within the National Committee.[10]

In 1953 a document of the Italian Ministry of Interior reported Napolitano as a member of the secret armed paramilitary groups of the Communist Party in the city of Rome (so called "Gladio Rossa") [11]

Later on in the same year, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and its military suppression by the Soviet Union occurred. The leadership of the Italian Communist Party labelled the insurgents as counter-revolutionaries, and the official party newspaper L'Unità referred to them as "thugs" and "despicable agents provocateurs". Napolitano complied with the party-sponsored position on this matter, a choice he would repeatedly declare to have become uncomfortable with, developing what his autobiography describes as a "grievous self-critical torment". He would reason that his compliance was motivated by concerns about the role of the Italian Communist Party as "inseparable from the fates of the socialist forces guided by the USSR" as opposed to "imperialist" forces.[5]

The decision to support the USSR against the Hungarian revolutionaries generated a split in the Italian Communist Party, and even the CGIL (Italy's largest trade union, then supportive of the PCI) refused to conform to the party-sponsored position and applauded the revolution, on the basis that the eighth national congress of the Italian Communist Party had indeed stated that the "Italian way to socialism" was to be democratic and specific to the nation. These views were supported in the party by Giorgio Amendola, whom Napolitano would always look up to as a teacher. Frequently seen together, Giorgio Amendola and Giorgio Napolitano would jokingly be referred to by friends as (respectively) Giorgio 'o chiatto and Giorgio 'o sicco ("Giorgio the pudgy" and "Giorgio the slim" in the Neapolitan dialect).[12]

From the 1960s to the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party[edit]

Napolitano with Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1974.

Between 1963 and 1966, Napolitano was party chairman in the city of Naples and later, between 1966 and 1969, he was appointed as chairman of the secretary's office and of the political office. During the 1970s and 1980s Napolitano was in charge for cultural activities, economic policy and the international relations of the party.

Napolitano's political thought was somewhat moderate in the context of the PCI: in fact he became the leader of the so-called meliorist wing (corrente migliorista) of the party, whose members notably included Gerardo Chiaromonte and Emanuele Macaluso. The term migliorista (from migliore, Italian for "better") was coined with a slightly mocking intent. To be a betterist was regarded more negatively than to be a reformist by traditional Communists.[citation needed]

In the mid-1970s, Napolitano was invited by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to give a lecture, but the United States ambassador to Italy, John A. Volpe, refused to grant Napolitano a visa on account of his membership of the PCI. Between 1977 and 1981 Napolitano had some secret meetings with the United States ambassador Richard Gardner, at a time when the PCI was seeking contact with the US administration, in the context of its definitive break with its past relationship with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the beginning of eurocommunism, the attempt to develop a theory and practice more adequate to the democratic countries of Western Europe. He was an active member of the party until it ended in 1991.[13] In 2006, when Napolitano was elected President of the Italian Republic, Gardner stated to AP Television News that he considered Napolitano "a real statesman", "a true believer in democracy" and "a friend of the United States [who] will carry out his office with impartiality and fairness".[14] Thanks to this role and in part by the good offices of Giulio Andreotti, in the 1980s Napolitano was able to travel to the United States and give lectures at Aspen, Colorado and at Harvard University. He has since visited and lectured in the United States several times.

1990s and early 2000s[edit]

After the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party, in 1991, Napolitano joined the Democratic Party of the Left, later Democrats of the Left. Successively, he served as President of the Chamber of Deputies (1992–1994), and between 1996 and 1998 he was the first former Communist to become Minister of the Interior, a role traditionally occupied by Christian Democrats. In this capacity, he took part together with fellow lawmaker and Cabinet Minister Livia Turco in drafting the government-sponsored law on immigration control (Legislative Decree No. 40 6 March 1998), better known as the "Turco–Napolitano bill". Napolitano also served a second term as a MEP from 1999 to 2004 as member of the Party of European Socialists.[15] In October 2005, he was named senator for life, and was therefore one of the last two to be appointed by President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, together with Sergio Pininfarina.

Election as President[edit]

In 2006, his name was frequently suggested for the office of President of the Italian Republic. Napolitano was the second person proposed by the centre-left majority coalition The Union, in place of Massimo D'Alema, after the chance of a joint vote on D'Alema had been rejected by leaders of the centre-right coalition the House of Freedoms. Even though Napolitano appeared at first a candidate that the House of Freedoms could converge on, the proposal was rejected much like that of D'Alema.

Napolitano in 2014.

The centre-left majority coalition, on 7 May 2006, officially endorsed Napolitano as its candidate in the presidential election that began on 8 May. The Vatican endorsed him as President through its official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, just after The Union named him as its candidate, as did Marco Follini, former secretary of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, a member party of the House of Freedoms.

Napolitano was elected on 10 May, in the fourth round of voting — the first of those requiring only an absolute majority, unlike the first three which required two-thirds of the votes — with 543 votes (out of a possible 1009). At the age of 80, he became the first former Communist to become President of Italy, as well as the third Neapolitan after Enrico De Nicola and Giovanni Leone. He came out of retirement to accept.[13] After his election, expressions of esteem toward him personally as regarding his authoritative character as future President of the Italian Republic were made by both members of The Union and of the House of Freedoms (which had turned in blank votes), such as Pier Ferdinando Casini.[16] Nevertheless, some Italian right-wing newspapers, such as il Giornale, expressed concerns about his communist past.[17] He started his term on 15 May. Napolitano was reelected on 20 April 2013.


Napolitano attending to the Army Parade of the Republic Day, June 2, 2006.

On 9 July 2006, Napolitano was present at the FIFA World Cup final, in which the Italian team defeated France and won its fourth World Cup, and afterwards he joined the players' celebrations. He is the second President of the Italian Republic to be present at a FIFA World Cup final won by the Italian team, after Sandro Pertini in 1982.

On 26 September 2006, Napolitano made an official visit to Budapest, Hungary, where he paid tribute to the fallen in the 1956 revolution, which he initially opposed as member of the Italian Communist Party, by laying a wreath at Imre Nagy's grave.[18]

On 10 February 2007 a diplomatic crisis arose between Italy and Croatia, after President Napolitano made an official speech during celebration of the National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe in which he stated:

...Already in the unleashing of the first wave of blind and extreme violence in those lands, in the autumn of 1943, summary and tumultuous justicialism, nationalist paroxysm, social retaliation and a plan to eradicate Italian presence intertwined in what was, and ceased to be, the Julian March.

There was therefore a movement of hate and bloodthirsty fury, and a Slavic annexationist design, which prevailed above all in the peace treaty of 1947, and assumed the sinister shape of "ethnic cleansing". What we can say for sure is that what was consumed – in the most evident way through the inhuman ferocity of the foibe – was one of the barbarities of the past century.[19][20]

Map of international trips made by Giorgio Napolitano as President of Italy.

The European Commission did not comment on this event, but did comment on (and partly condemn) the response by Croatian president Stjepan Mesić, who described Napolitano's statement as racist because Napolitano did not refer to either Slovenians or Croatians as a nation when he spoke about a "Slavic annexationist design" for the Julian March[21] (at the time, Slovenians and Croatians fought together in the Yugoslav Resistance Movement). Another matter of debate in Croatia was that the Italian President made awards to relatives of 25 foibe victims, who included the last fascist Italian prefect in Zadar, Vincenzo Serrentino, who was sentenced to death in 1947 in Šibenik.[22][23] That was seen by Mesić as "historic revisionism" and open support for revanchism. President Napolitano's remarks on the foibe massacres were praised by both centre-left and centre-right in Italy, and both coalitions condemned Mesić's statements, while the whole of Croatia stood by Mesić, who later acknowledged that Napolitano didn't want to put in discussion the Peace Treaty of 1947.

On 21 February 2007, Prime Minister Romano Prodi submitted his resignation after losing a foreign policy vote in the Parliament;[24] Napolitano held talks with the political groups in parliament, and on 24 February rejected the resignation, prompting Prodi to ask for a new vote of confidence.[25] Prodi won the vote in the upper house on 28 February[26] and in the lower house on 2 March,[27] allowing his cabinet to remain in office.

2008 political crisis[edit]

Barack Obama and Napolitano at Quirinale Palace in Rome, 2009.

On 24 January 2008, Romano Prodi lost a vote of confidence in the Senate by a vote of 161 to 156 votes, after the UDEUR Populars ended its support for the Prodi-led government.[28] President Napolitano requested that the president of the Senate, Franco Marini, should assess the possibility of forming a caretaker government. On 4 February 2008, Marini acknowledged the impossibility of forming an interim government because the centre-right parties would not join,[29] and on 6 February 2008 Napolitano dissolved the Parliament.[30] Elections were held on 13 and 14 April 2008,[31] together with the administrative elections, and won by a coalition of right-wing and centre-right parties.

On 7 May 2008, President Napolitano appointed Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister, following his landslide victory in the general election. The cabinet was officially inaugurated one day later, with Berlusconi thus becoming the second Prime Minister under President Napolitano.

Eluana Englaro incident[edit]

On 6 February 2009, President Napolitano refused to sign an emergency decree made by the Berlusconi government in order to suspend a final court sentence allowing suspension of nutrition to 38-year-old coma patient Eluana Englaro; the decree could not be enacted by Berlusconi. This caused a major political debate within Italy regarding the relationship between the President and the government in office.[32]

2011 political crisis[edit]

Napolitano with Prime Minister Mario Monti and his technocratic cabinet (2011).
President of the Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini, President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano and President of the Senate Pietro Grasso.

In November 2011, after barely surviving a motion of no confidence in December 2010, Berlusconi resigned from his post as Prime Minister, having lost the trust of the parliament amidst increasingly dramatic financial and economic conditions. President Napolitano then decided to appoint former EU commissioner Mario Monti as a senator for life, and then as prime minister designate. Monti was subsequently confirmed by an overwhelming majority of both houses of the Italian parliament, in what was widely referred to as a "government of the president".[33]

Napolitano's management of the events caused unprecedented worldwide media exposure regarding his role as President of the Italian Republic, a role normally regarded as largely ceremonial.

Re-election as President[edit]

Following five inconclusive ballots for the 2013 presidential election, Napolitano agreed to stand for re-election as President – an unprecedented move – following pleas by Prime Minister Mario Monti and the leaders of the main political blocks, Pier Luigi Bersani and Silvio Berlusconi.[34] Eventually, Napolitano reluctantly agreed to run for another term in order to safeguard the continuity of the country's institutions.[35][36] He was easily re-elected on 20 April 2013, receiving 738 of the 1007 possible votes, and was sworn in on 22 April 2013 after a speech when he asked for constitutional and electoral[37] reforms.

Final years and resignation[edit]

After his re-election, Napolitano immediately began consultations with the chairmen of the Chamber of Deputies, Senate and political forces, after the failure of the previous attempt with Pier Luigi Bersani after the elections, and the establishment of a panel of experts by the President himself (dubbed as wise men by the press), in order to outline priorities and formulate an agenda to deal with the persistent economic hardship and growing unemployment.

On 24 April, Napolitano gave to the vice-secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, the task of forming a government, having determined that Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the winning coalition Italy Common Good, could not form a government because it did not have a majority in the Senate. Enrico Letta is the successor of Mario Monti, who resigned on 21 December 2012 but whose government remained in charge for the ordinary administration until 28 April 2013, the day the new government was sworn in.[38] The Renzi Government was sworn in on 22 February 2014.

On 30 January 2014 the Five Star Movement deposited an impeachment accusing Napolitano of harming the Italian Constitution, to allow unconstitutional laws and in relation of the events State-Mafia negotiation.[39] The motion was later dismissed.

On 9 November 2014 the Italian press reported that Napolitano would step down at the end of the year.[40] The press office of the Quirinale "neither confirmed nor denied" the reports.[41] Napolitano officially resigned on 14 January 2015, after the end of the six month Italian Presidency of the European Union.[42]

Honours and decorations[edit]


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  2. ^ "Italian President Napolitano announces retirement". BBC. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Mirella Serri (2005). I redenti. Corbaccio. 
  4. ^ Simone Duranti (2008). Lo spirito gregario I gruppi universitari fascisti tra politica e propaganda (1930-1940). Donzelli. 
  5. ^ a b Napolitano, Giorgio (2005). Dal Pci al socialismo europeo. Un'autobiografia politica (in Italian). Laterza. ISBN 88-420-7715-1. 
  6. ^ La Repubblica. "Governo, Napolitano annuncia "Martedì inizio le consultazioni"" (in Italian). Retrieved 13 May 2006. 
  7. ^ a b "The President Giorgio Napolitano - biography", Presidenza della Repubblica, retrieved 31 January 2014 
  8. ^ Graziani, Nicola. "Quirinale: Giorgio Napolitano, il compagno gentiluomo" (in Italian). Retrieved 13 May 2006. [dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Biography". Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 11 February 2007. 
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  11. ^
  12. ^ ""Principe rosso", violò il tabù del Viminale". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 11 February 2007. 
  13. ^ a b "Giorgio Napolitano". Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
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  15. ^[dead link]
  16. ^ La Repubblica. "Da Berlusconi auguri con freddezza. Calderoli: "Non lo riconosciamo"" (in Italian). Retrieved 16 May 2006. 
  17. ^ Il Giornale. "Sul colle sventola bandiera rossa" (PDF) (in Italian). Retrieved 14 May 2006. 
  18. ^ "Italy's president pays tribute in Hungary to 1956 revolution". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 6 October 2006. 
  19. ^ Presidenza della Repubblica, Giorgio Napolitano, official speech for the celebration of "Giorno del Ricordo" Quirinal, 10 February 2007 integral text from official website of the Italian President Bureau
  20. ^ «....Già nello scatenarsi della prima ondata di cieca violenza in quelle terre, nell'autunno del 1943, si intrecciarono giustizialismo sommario e tumultuoso, parossismo nazionalista, rivalse sociali e un disegno di sradicamento della presenza italiana da quella che era, e cessò di essere, la Venezia Giulia. Vi fu dunque un moto di odio e di furia sanguinaria, e un disegno annessionistico slavo, che prevalse innanzitutto nel Trattato di pace del 1947, e che assunse i sinistri contorni di una "pulizia etnica". Quel che si può dire di certo è che si consumò – nel modo più evidente con la disumana ferocia delle foibe – una delle barbarie del secolo scorso.» from the official website of The Presidency of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, official speech for the celebration of "Giorno del Ricordo" Quirinal, Rome, february 10 2007
  21. ^ "l'Unità.it – Giorgio Napolitano: "Foibe ignorate per cecità e calcolo"". Unita. 20 September 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  22. ^ Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
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  25. ^ "Italian PM asked to resume duties". BBC News. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007. 
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  27. ^ "Italian PM survives House vote". CNN. 28 February 2007. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007. 
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  30. ^ "Domani lo scioglimento delle camere" (in Italian). ANSA. 5 February 2008. Archived from the original on 4 February 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008. 
  31. ^ "Italy heads towards fresh elections". Agence France-Presse. 5 February 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "Italian right-to-die row deepens". BBC News. 7 February 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
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  34. ^ "Italy crisis: President Giorgio Napolitano re-elected". BBC News. 20 April 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
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  36. ^ Napolitano, Giorgio; Scalfari, Eugenio (9 June 2013). "Napolitano si racconta a Scalfari: 'La mia vita, da comunista a Presidente'" (Video, at 59 min). La Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  37. ^ The critical findings on electoral law echoed in the words that the head of state gave April 22, 2013 before the Electoral College that had re-elected him for a second term: Buonomo, Giampiero (2013). "Porcellum, premio di maggioranza a rischio". Golem informazione.   – via Questia (subscription required)
  38. ^ Frye, Andrew (24 April 2013). "Letta Named Italian Prime Minister as Impasse Ends". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  39. ^ "M5S deposita impeachment per Napolitano". 
  40. ^ di STEFANO FOLLI (8 November 2014). "Perché Napolitano lascerà il Quirinale alla fine dell'anno". la Repubblica. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ F. Q. "Dimissioni Napolitano, il presidente lascia dopo 9 anni. Primo voto il 29 gennaio". Il Fatto Quotidiano. 
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  44. ^ "Lo scambio di decorazioni tra il Presidente Napolitano e il Presidente Hollande" (in Italian). 
  45. ^ "Koningin: Italië land van dierbare betovering (met fotoserie)". 
  46. ^ MP 2012. Internetowy System Aktów Prawynch (in Polish). 21 November 2006. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  47. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
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  51. ^ "Il Presidente Giorgio Napolitano all'Università di Pavia per i duecento anni dell'Orazione foscoliana "Dell'origine e dell'ufficio della Letteratura"" (in Italian). University of Pavia. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 

External links[edit]

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