Matteo Renzi

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Matteo Renzi
Matteo Renzi 2.jpg
56th Prime Minister of Italy
Assumed office
22 February 2014
President Giorgio Napolitano
Sergio Mattarella
Preceded by Enrico Letta
Secretary of the Democratic Party
Assumed office
15 December 2013
Deputy Lorenzo Guerini
Debora Serracchiani
Preceded by Guglielmo Epifani
Mayor of Florence
In office
22 June 2009 – 24 March 2014
Preceded by Leonardo Domenici
Succeeded by Dario Nardella
President of Florence Province
In office
14 June 2004 – 22 June 2009
Preceded by Michele Gesualdi
Succeeded by Andrea Barducci
Personal details
Born (1975-01-11) 11 January 1975 (age 40)
Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Political party Democratic Party (2007–present)
The Daisy (2002–2007)
People's Party (1996–2002)
Spouse(s) Agnese Landini (1999–present)
Children Francesco
Emanuele
Ester
Alma mater University of Florence
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature
Website matteorenzi.it
Matteo Renzi Portrait.png This article is part of a series about
Matteo Renzi
  • Political offices

President of Florence Province (2004–2009)
Mayor of Florence (2009–2014)
Democratic Party secretary (2013– )
Prime Minister (2014– )


  • Elections

  • Government

Matteo Renzi firma.svg

Emblem of Italy.svg

Matteo Renzi (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛo ˈrɛntsi]; born 11 January 1975) is an Italian politician who has been Prime Minister of Italy since 22 February 2014 and the Secretary of the Democratic Party since 15 December 2013.[1][2] He was previously the President of Florence Province from 2004 to 2009 and the Mayor of Florence from 2009 to 2014.[3][4]

At the age of 39 years and 42 days, Renzi became the youngest Italian Prime Minister since unification in 1861, being younger than Benito Mussolini when he took office in 1922 by 52 days.[5] He is also the first to be elected Prime Minister as a Mayor and the second youngest leader in the European Council. Renzi has been described as the de facto leader of the Party of European Socialists, in opposition to Angela Merkel's People's Party; the two leaders are together referred to as Merkenzi.[6][7] He was also ranked as the third most influential under 40 person in the world, by the American magazine Fortune and in the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy.[8][9]

Early life[edit]

Renzi was born in 1975 in Florence, Tuscany, the second of four children. His father, Tiziano Renzi, was a small business owner and Christian Democratic municipal councillor in Rignano sull'Arno.[10][11] Renzi grew up in an observant Catholic family in Rignano sull'Arno, but studied in Florence at the Classical Lyceum Dante Alighieri, where he passed his final exam with the vote 60/60 but risked rejection because, as students' representative, he refused to withdraw a school newspaper in which there was harsh criticism of some professors.[12] During this time he was a Scout in the Association of Catholic Guides and Scouts of Italy (AGESCI).[13]

In 1999 he graduated from the University of Florence with a degree in law, with a thesis on Giorgio La Pira, the former Christian Democratic Mayor of Florence. He then went on to work for CHIL Srl, a marketing company owned by his family, coordinating the sales service of the newspaper La Nazione.[14] During this time Renzi was also a football referee at amateur level and a futsal player.[15][16] In 1994, he participated as a competitor for five consecutive episodes in the television program Wheel of Fortune hosted by Mike Bongiorno, winning 48 million lire.[17]

Early political career[edit]

Renzi's interest in politics began in high school.[18] In 1996 he was one of the founders of the committee in support of Romano Prodi's candidature as Prime Minister in the general election; that same year he joined the centrist Italian People's Party, and became its Provincial Secretary in 1999. In the same year he married Agnese Landini, with whom he later had three children.

In 2001 he joined Francesco Rutelli's The Daisy party, composed by members of the disbanded People's Party. On 13 June 2004 he was elected President of Florence Province with 59% of the vote, as the candidate of the centre-left coalition. He was the youngest person to become President of an Italian Province.[19] In the years as President of the Province, Renzi expressed his ideas against the "political caste", and during his mandate he reduced taxes and decreased the number of the Province's employees and managers.[20]

Mayor of Florence[edit]

After five years as the President of Florence Province, Renzi announced that he would seek election as the Mayor of Florence. On 9 June 2009, Renzi, by now a member of the Democratic Party, won the election with 48% of the vote, compared to 32% for his opponent Giovanni Galli.[21] As Mayor he halved the number of city councillors, installed 500 free WiFi access points across the city, reduced kindergarten waiting lists by 90%, and increased spending on social welfare programs and schools.[22]

Renzi in 2009 as Mayor of Florence.

One year after being sworn in as Mayor, and with his popularity in national opinion polls increasing, Renzi organised a public meeting with another young party administrator, Debora Serracchiani, at Leopolda Station in Florence to discuss Italian politics, after stating that a complete change was also necessary in his party.[23] Other prominent Democratic Party members who aligned themselves with Renzi's programme were Matteo Ricchetti, President of the Regional Council of Emilia-Romagna, Davide Faraone, a regional councillor from the Sicilian Regional Assembly, and Giuseppe Civati, a prominent member of the Democratic Party in Lombardy and a member of the Lombard Regional Council.[24]

Following this public meeting, the Italian media gave Renzi the nickname "il Rottamatore", or "The Scrapper". In 2011, Renzi organised a second public meeting, also in Florence, where he wrote down one hundred topics of discussion. During this time he began to be strongly criticised by other members of his party closer to the then-Secretary Pier Luigi Bersani, after his suggestion that Italian politicians of the same generation as then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi should retire. In September 2012, Renzi announced that he would seek to lead the centre-left coalition in the 2013 general election; the other four candidates for that position were Pier Luigi Bersani, Secretary of the Democratic Party, Nichi Vendola, Leader of the Left Ecology Freedom, Laura Puppato, a Democratic Deputy from Veneto and Bruno Tabacci, Leader of the Democratic Centre.[25] After the first round of the December election, Renzi gained 35.5% of the vote, finishing second behind Bersani and qualifying for the second ballot. Renzi eventually gained a total of 39% of the vote, against Bersani's 61%.[26]

During the subsequent campaign in the 2013 election in March, Renzi backed Bersani by organising large public rallies in his support in Florence, but come the election the Democratic Party only gained 25.5% of the vote, despite opinion polls placing the party at almost 30%. In April, during the elections for the President of the Republic, Renzi caused a minor controversy by openly criticising the candidacies of both Franco Marini and Anna Finocchiaro, two long-standing members of his Democratic Party.[27][28]

Party Secretary[edit]

Matteo Renzi in 2013.

Following the resignation of Pier Luigi Bersani in April 2013, Renzi announced that he would stand a second time for the position of Secretary of the Democratic Party; he was supported by a number of his former political opponents, such as former Party Secretaries Walter Veltroni and Dario Franceschini, Deputy Marina Sereni, MEP David Sassoli and Turin Mayor Piero Fassino.[29][30] Other supporters of his included Deputies like Gianni Dal Moro, Francesco Sanna, Francesco Boccia, Lorenzo Basso and Enrico Borghi, all of whom were considered close to the newly elected Prime Minister Enrico Letta.[31]

The other two candidates for Party Secretary were Gianni Cuperlo, a Member of the Chamber of Deputies and former Secretary of the Italian Communist Youth Federation, and Giuseppe Civati, a Deputy from Lombardy and a former supporter of Renzi. In the December election, Renzi was elected with 68% of the popular vote, compared to 18% for Gianni Cuperlo and 14% for Giuseppe Civati. He became the new Secretary of the Democratic Party and the centre-left's prospective candidate for Prime Minister. His victory was welcomed by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who had been the Vice-Secretary of the party under Bersani's leadership.

Throughout January and February 2014 there were multiple reports of persistent leadership tensions between Renzi and Prime Minister Letta, who had been the Deputy Secretary under Bersani. Many claimed that Renzi was pressuring Letta to resign in his favour, arguing that as he was now the leader of the Democratic Party he should be given the right to become Prime Minister. On 12 February, Letta acknowledged these rumours for the first time, publicly demanded that Renzi make his position clear. Renzi subsequently called a meeting of the Democratic Party leadership for the following evening. Just before the meeting took place, Renzi publicly called on Letta to resign and allow him to form a new government.[32] Letta initially resisted the demand, but following a vote in favour of Renzi's proposal during the meeting, which Letta did not attend, he announced that he would tender his resignation as Prime Minister on 14 February.[33]

Under Renzi's leadership, the Democratic Party officially joined the Party of European Socialists (PES) as a full-time member on 28 February.[34]

Prime Minister of Italy[edit]

Renzi announcing the formation of his Government.

At a meeting on 13 February 2014, following tensions between Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Renzi, the Democratic Party leadership voted heavily in favour of Renzi's call for "a new government, a new phase and a radical programme of reform". Minutes after the Party backed the Renzi proposal by 136 votes to 16, with two abstentions, Palazzo Chigi – the official residence of the Prime Minister – announced that Letta would travel to the Quirinale the following day to tender his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano.[35]

In an earlier speech, Renzi had paid tribute to Letta, saying that he was not intended to put him "on trial". But, without directly proposing himself as the next Prime Minister, he said the Eurozone's third-largest economy urgently needed "a new phase" and "radical programme" to push through badly-needed reforms. The motion he put forward made clear "the necessity and urgency of opening a new phase with a new executive". Speaking privately to party leaders, Renzi said that Italy was "at a crossroads" and faced either holding fresh elections or a new government without a return to the polls.[36] On 14 February, President Napolitano accepted Letta's resignation from the office of Prime Minister.[37]

Following Letta's resignation, Renzi formally received the task of forming a new government from President Napolitano on 17 February.[38] Renzi held several days of talks with party leaders, all of which he broadcast live on the internet, before unveiling his Cabinet on 21 February, which contained members of his Democratic Party, the New Centre-Right, the Union of the Centre and the Civic Choice. His Cabinet became Italy's youngest government to date, with an average age of 47.[39] It was also the first in which the number of female ministers was equal to the number of male ministers, excluding the Prime Minister.[40][41]

The following day Renzi was formally sworn in as Prime Minister, becoming the youngest Prime Minister in the history of Italy.[42] His rise to become Prime Minister was widely seen as a sign of much-needed generational change, and at the time he took office he enjoyed by far the highest approval rating of any politician in the country.[43]

On 25 February Renzi won a vote of confidence in the Italian Parliament, with 169 votes in the Senate and 378 in the Chamber of Deputies.[44]

On 7 February 2015, five senators and two deputies from the Civic Choice defected to the Democratic Party, citing the leadership of Renzi as Prime Minister as the primary reason for their decision to change parties.[45]

On 20 March 2015, Prime Minister Renzi became ad interim Minister of Infrastructure and Transport after the resignation of Maurizio Lupi, due to a corruption scandal involving public works on infrastructure, in which his name was cited several times.[46] Renzi hold the office until 2 April, when Graziano Delrio was appointed as new minister.[47]

Domestic policy[edit]

Labour reform[edit]

Upon becoming Prime Minister, Renzi said that "long-overdue" labour market reform would be at the top of his agenda to improve the state of the Italian economy. On 12 March 2014, the Cabinet issued a law-decree on fixed-term contracts, called the Poletti Decree, from the name of the Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti, as well as a bill proposing major reforms to the Italian labour market called the Jobs Act.[48] A reduction in the tax burden of about €80 was announced for those earning less than €1,500 per month. On 30 April Renzi, together with the Minister for the Public Administration Marianna Madia, presented the guidelines for the reform of the Public Administration, subsequently approved by the Cabinet on 13 June.[49]

Trade union protesters demonstrate near the Colosseum against Renzi's labour market reforms.

In September the government brought the Jobs Act before Parliament, which provided for, among other things, the abolition of Article 18 of the Workers' Statute, which protected workers from unlawful dismissal. The proposal was heavily criticised by the largest Italian trade union, the General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) and its leaders Susanna Camusso and Maurizio Landini.[50] Moreover, the left-wing of the Democratic Party, by then led by the former National Secretary Pier Luigi Bersani, criticised the government for the reform, threatening to vote against it.[51] Renzi accused the trade unions and the left-wing faction of his party of being conservatives and defending a policy which caused unemployment.[52]

On 29 September, the National Committee of the Democratic Party voted to support the Jobs Act, despite the disagreements within the party, with 130 votes in favour, 20 against and 11 abstaining. During the meeting Renzi stated that he was ready to deal with the trade unions on labour reform.[53] On 9 October the Italian Senate voted to approve the Jobs Act, and the landmark reform passed with 165 votes in favour to 111 against, marking the first step for the most ambitious economic legislation of the eight-month-old government. Before the vote Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti was forced to cut his speech short due to the loud protests of the Five Star Movement and Lega Nord oppositions, some of whom threw coins and papers.[54] German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was visiting Milan and had been among the most vocal politicians regarding Italy’s need for speedy economic reforms, said the labour law marked an “important step” to reduce “employment barriers” in the Eurozone’s third-largest economy.[55]

On 25 October, almost one million people took part in a mass protest in Rome, organised by the CGIL in opposition to the labour reforms of the government. Some high-profile members of the left-wing faction of the Democratic Party, including Gianni Cuperlo, Stefano Fassina and Pippo Civati, also participated in the protest.[56] On 8 November more than 100,000 public employees protested in Rome in a demonstration organised by the three largest trade unions in the country, the CGIL, the CISL and the UIL.[57]

On 25 November, the Chamber of Deputies approved the Jobs Act with 316 votes, but the Five Star Movement, Lega Nord and almost 40 members of the Democratic Party abstained from the vote to protest against the reform.[58] On 3 December the Senate gave the Jobs Act the final approval it needed to become law.[59]

Economic policies[edit]

In March 2014 the Cabinet approved the auctioning of a large number of luxury cars that were used to transport heads of state, including nine Maseratis, two Jaguars, and various other cars such as BMWs and Alfa Romeos. Out of the 1,500 cars put up for sale, 170 sold immediately over eBay.[60] In April, as part of his wider industrial reforms, Renzi forced the chief executives of Italy's biggest state-owned companies, including Eni, Terna, Finmeccanica, Enel and Poste Italiane, to resign, citing a lack of public confidence in their leadership.[61] He subsequently appointed women to the majority of new positions, making it the first time any woman had served as a chief executive of a state-owned company in Italy.[61]

On 1 August, Renzi launched law-decree called Unblock Italy, which was intended to facilitate the implementation of major projects, civil works and infrastructure that were suspended at the time, as well as achieving further administrative simplification. The centre of this was the Millegiorni, or the "Thousand Days Programme". On 1 September Renzi launched the website passodopopasso.italia.it, which would allow citizens to monitor the progress of the Millegiorni. Later, on 9 October, Renzi presented his first Finance Bill, which was approved by the European Commission on 28 October.[62]

In February 2015, with the economy continuing to stagnate, the Government announced a plan to abolish rules that limit cooperative lenders' shareholders to one vote each at shareholder meetings regardless of the size of their holdings.[63] The European Commission subsequently forecast that the Italian economy would begin to grow by the spring.[63]

Constitutional reforms[edit]

Renzi inspecting troops with President Sergio Mattarella.

Upon becoming Prime Minister, Renzi stated that one of his most important tasks was to achieve constitutional reforms. The Italian institutional framework had remained essentially unchanged since 1 January 1948, when the Italian Constitution first came into force after being enacted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 December 1947.[64]

The first stage of the reform was the abolition of the so-called "perfect bicameralism", which gave the same powers to the two houses of the Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The reforms would substantially decrease the power of the Senate. First, the Senate's power to call for the resignation of the government by refusing to grant a vote of confidence would be removed. This power would be held only by the Chamber of Deputies. Second, only a few types of bill, including the constitutional bills, constitutional amendments, laws regarding local interests, referendums and the protection of linguistic minorities, would need to be passed by the Senate. The Senate could only propose amendments to bills in other cases, and the Chamber of Deputies would always have the final word. The reform would also change the composition of the Senate and replace the current members with representatives from the Regions. On 11 March, the Chamber of Deputies approved both the plans to overhaul the Senate and the second stage of Renzi's constitutional reforms, a flagship electoral reform law that would see Italy's voting system overhauled.[65]

On 26 March, despite objections raised by several parties in the coalition, the government won a vote in the Senate on the bill reforming the provinces, with 160 voting in favour and 133 against. On 6 May, the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate approved the government’s bill on the reform of the Senate.[66] Finally on 8 August, the Senate approved the constitutional and electoral reform proposed by the government.[66]

Due to the ambitious reforms that provided for the abolition of Senate, a new electoral law and an increase in the powers of the Prime Minister, Renzi was accused by politicians and constitutionalists like Stefano Rodotà or Fausto Bertinotti of being an authoritarian leader.[67][68][69][70][71]

Matteo Renzi with the then-President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano.

In April 2014, Renzi first proposed that Italy adopt what he called the Italicum system, a proportional representation system with a majority bonus for the party which obtains 40% of the vote. In order to approve the new electoral law, which was opposed by Five Star Movement, Left Ecology Freedom and a minority of the Democratic Party, Renzi gained the support of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was still the leader of Forza Italia, despite having been expelled from the Senate due to his sentence for tax evasion. The alliance between Renzi and Berlusconi was named the Nazareno Pact, from the name of the Rome street where the headquarters of the Democratic Party are located, and from where the two leaders met for the first time to discuss the reform.[72]

Renzi was harshly criticised by many within the Democratic Party's left-wing minority for the deal with Berlusconi, as well as by the populist Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo who said the Nazareno Pact was the proof that there are no differences between the Italian centre-left and centre-right.[73] Despite concern from some within the Democratic Party, the Italicum was given final approval by the Italian Senate on 27 January 2015, thanks to support from Forza Italia Senators.[74]

On 10 March 2015, the Chamber of Deputies approved the reform of the Senate, but, in a break from their past support, Forza Italia stood opposed. The Forza Italia leader in the Chamber, Renato Brunetta, accused Renzi of transforming Italy into a democratura (an illiberal democracy).[75]

As the reforms amend the constitution, the bill needed to be passed once more in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. If the reforms passed only with a simple majority (i.e. more than half) but less than two-thirds in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, a referendum would required for it to be valid.[76]

On April 28, Maria Elena Boschi announced the Constitutional Reform to the Parliament. The government had staged a confidence vote to approve the electoral reform, known as Italicum. The M5S, SEL, FI (which previously supported the reform) and the PD left-wing minority strongly contested this decision, drawing comparisons between Renzi and Benito Mussolini.[77] It was the third time that an electoral law was passed with a confidence vote, after Mussolini's Acerbo law and Alcide De Gasperi's "Scam law".[78]

On May 4 the Chamber of Deputies finally approved the electoral law with 334 votes for, 61 votes against, with considerable opposition from deputies who opposed the reforms and a faction of the PD which voted against. The reforms will take effect in July 2016.[79]

Immigration[edit]

Number of migrants arrived by boat in Italy from 1997 to 2014.

A major problem Renzi has faced is illegal immigration to Italy, which emerged as a result of the Libyan and Syrian Civil Wars. On 8 August 2014, the Italian Cabinet approved a law-decree contrasting the phenomenon of lawlessness and violence at sporting events and provided for the international protection of migrants. In November 2014, under Renzi's government, the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton, due to the refusal by several EU governments to fund it.

On 19 April 2015, a huge shipwreck took place in the Mediterranean Sea, causing the death of more than 700 migrants from North Africa. Renzi returned in Rome from a political event in Mantua for the regional election and met his top ministers. Later on, he spoke by telephone to French President François Hollande and to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.[80][81] They agreed to call for an emergency meeting of European interior ministers to address the problem of migrant deaths. The Italian Prime Minister condemned human trafficking as a "new slave trade".[82]

Social policies[edit]

Anti-austerity protests during the inauguration of Expo 2015 in Milan.

On 3 September 2014 during a press conference, Renzi announced an online consultation with students, teachers and citizens ahead of the major school reforms promoted by Education Minister Stefania Giannini.[83][84]

On 9 July 2015, the school reform have been finally approved by the Chamber of Deputies, with 277 votes against 173.[85]

On 15 December, during a ceremony at the Italian National Olympic Committee, Renzi officially launched the candidacy of Rome for the 2024 Summer Olympics.[86] Renzi stated that, "Our country too often seems hesitant. It's unacceptable not to try or to renounce playing the game. Sport in Italy is a way of life and a way of looking at the future. I don’t know if we’ll make it, but the Olympic candidacy is one of the most beautiful things we can do for our kids, for us, for Italy."[87]

During Renzi's premiership Milan hosted the Universal Exposition; the themes were technology, innovation, culture and traditions concerning food.[88] The opening of the Expo on 1 May 2015 was met with protest from anti-austerity activists, black bloc, and anarchists caused criminal damage, resulting in the police using tear gas.[89]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Official trips made by Renzi as Prime Minister.

During his premiership, Renzi faced a lot of difficult situations, such as the continuing of the European debt crisis, the civil war in Libya, the Ukrainian Crisis and the insurgency of the Islamic State in the Middle East.

Renzi formed a close relationship with the US President Barack Obama, supporting the 2014 military intervention against ISIL with hundreds of Italian troops and four Panavia Tornado aircraft, and also supporting international sanctions against Russia after the invasion of East Ukraine.[90] Renzi also forged early good relations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who praised the economic policies of Renzi's government. A key ally of Renzi in the Mediterranean is Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; the two leaders held many bilateral meetings where they discussed the problem of immigration to Italy and the increasing tensions in the Middle East and North Africa.[91]

In the European Union, Renzi has good relationship with the French President François Hollande and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls, especially with Valls, who saw Renzi as a model for his Third Way policies.[92]

Europe[edit]

Following the 2014 European Parliament elections, which saw the Democratic Party receive the highest number of votes of all the individual political parties contesting that election across the entire European Union (more than 11 million), Renzi subsequently emerged as the prominent leader of the European Socialists.[93] This was in opposition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, widely considered the de facto leader of the European People's Party and according to some European Union analysts, the two leaders are together referred to as Merkenzi.[94] Renzi and Merkel had many bilateral meetings, the first on 17 March 2014 in Berlin, just a few weeks after Renzi's election as Prime Minister, where the two leaders discussed important reforms that the Italian government planned to make both in Italy and in the EU.[95]

On 22 January 2015, the German Chancellor visited Renzi in his home city of Florence, where she publicly lauded the "impressive" reforms carried out by his government. On the following day the two leaders held a joint press conference in front of Michelangelo's David.[96]

Renzi speaks at the European Socialist Congress in Rome.

Renzi is seen as an ally of French President François Hollande of the Socialist Party. On 15 March 2014 Renzi met Hollande in Paris, agreeing with him a common economic policy focused not only on the austerity measures imposed by the so-called Troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, but also on more flexible policies to promote economic growth in the EU.[97][98] Renzi is a close personal friend of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, with the two leaders often being considered heirs of the Third Way politics espoused by the likes of Tony Blair.[99]

On 7 January 2015, after the Islamic terrorist attack in Paris which caused the death of 17 people, Renzi expressed horror and dismay, offering his best wishes to the people of France and noting his close relationships with the French Prime Minister and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.[100] On 11 January, he joined more than 40 world leaders and three million people in the Republican March organised by President Hollande.[101]

Renzi has also built a good relationship with British Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party. During their first meeting on 1 April, the British Prime Minister stated that the reforms planned by Renzi were "ambitious" and that together the two men would be able to change the European Union.[102][103] On the same day, Renzi also met former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom Renzi called an inspiration to him.[104] On 2 October, Renzi held a press conference with Cameron in 10 Downing Street, with Cameron lauding their similar policies to reform the European Union and overcome the economic crisis.[105]

On 1 August, Renzi officially put forward his Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, as candidate for the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the incoming-European Commission to be led by Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Mogherini was eventually successfully confirmed as the EU High Representative.[106][107]

Renzi meets with G7 leaders ahead of the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.

In September, Renzi participated in the NATO 2014 Summit in Wales. Before the official start of the summit, he had discussions with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, US President Barack Obama and the other three leaders of the European G4 to discuss the crisis with Russia.[108] This summit was the first held after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the offensive by the Islamic State of the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[109]

On 3 February 2015, Renzi received newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the Coalition of the Radical Left in Rome. The two leaders held a joint press conference expressing concerns about austerity measures imposed by the European Commission and stated that economic growth is the only way to exit from the crisis. After the press conference, Renzi presented Tsipras with an Italian tie as a gift. Tsipras, who was notable for refusing to ever wear a tie, thanked Renzi and said that he would wear the gift in celebration after Greece had successfully renegotiated the austerity measures.[110]

On March 4, the Italian Prime Minister met the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko in Kiev ; the meeting was focused on the War in Donbass. During the press conference, Renzi stated that: "Italy and the EU will continue to work together to implement the Minsk accord and doing all we can to return to peace with the respect of the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."[111]

United States[edit]

Similar to his predecessors, Renzi continued the policy of having a close relationship with the United States and President Barack Obama. Italy supported the US in the military intervention against the Islamic State, and participated in the international sanctions against Russian following their invasion of East Ukraine.[112]

Renzi meets with US President Barack Obama, in March 2014.

Renzi met Obama for the first time on 24 March, during the latter's trip to Rome. Renzi also held a joint meeting with Obama, Pope Francis and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.[113] Obama stated afterwards that he had been impressed by the reforms Renzi wanted to undertake.[114][115] Renzi himself said that he considered Obama an example for the policies he wanted to achieve.[116]

On 22 September, Renzi visited Silicon Valley, California, where he met young Italian emigrants who created startups in the USA.[117] He also visited the headquarters of Twitter, Google and Yahoo! to hold talks with chief executives. Renzi was accompanied by former US Secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz, and by the former American Ambassador to Italy, Ronald P. Spogli.[118] He later spoke at Stanford University as the guest of University President John L. Hennessy.[119] The following day, Renzi spoke at a United Nations summit in New York City, focussing on the problem of climatic change.[120] Following the summit, Renzi met former US President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.[121] At the end of his trip, Renzi participated in a reception offered by Barack Obama.[122]

Renzi was hosted in the White House on 16/17 April 2015; with President Obama they discussed many issues, including Ukraine, Libya and ISIL. They discussed Europe's economy, a pending trade pact between the U.S. and Europe, climate change and energy security.[123]

Asia[edit]

Renzi build up a close relations with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe; the two Prime Ministers are both against austerity and they are reforming the constitutions of their countries.[124] On 6 June 2014, Renzi received Prime Minister Abe in Rome. Abe publicly congratulated Renzi for the economic and constitutional reforms being delivered by Renzi's government. The two leaders also met in Tokyo in August 2015 and discussed about relations with China and the stability of East Asia.[125]

On 9 June, Renzi travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam to meet with President Trương Tấn Sang and Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, as well as Communist Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng to sign economic treaties worth around 5 billion US dollars to the Italian economy.[126][127] In doing so, Renzi became the first Italian Prime Minister to officially visit Vietnam since 1973, when diplomacy first began between Italy and North Vietnam.[128][129] During the visit Renzi placed a wreath in the mausoleum of the former North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh.[130]

On 11 June, Renzi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, who congratulated him for the "important reforms" being undertaken by his government.[131] Xi also stated that China would continue cooperation with Italy ahead of Expo 2015 in Milan.[132][133] Several months later in October, Renzi met with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Rome to sign twenty treaties worth a total of 8 billion euros.[134]

On 12 June, Renzi met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana, where they discussed withdrawal of Italian troops from Afghanistan.[135][136] On 18 November, Renzi travelled to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow he signed a number of economic pacts securing increased gas supply.[137]

Africa[edit]

During his premiership, Renzi started a policy review led to the creation of the Italy-Africa initiative, which includes renewable energy cooperation and a new package of development aid in fields stretching from health care to culture; counterterrorism hai has a key part of his agenda, but the East Africa region is also important to stop the migration flows from there to Italy through North Africa, especially Libya.[138]

On 4 March, Renzi travelled to Tunisia, where he had a meeting with Prime Minister Mustapha Ben Jafar. With Jafar, Renzi discussed about the problem of illegal immigration to Italy from the coasts of North Africa. The trip to Tunisia was the first official one made by Renzi as Prime Minister of Italy.[139]

On 18 March 2015, after the Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, in which 28 people died and four of whom were Italians, Renzi condemned the terrorist attack and said that Italy is close to the Tunisian government and people.[140]

On 19 July, Renzi started a major trip to Africa, meeting the Mozambique President Armando Guebuza.[141] Renzi signed economic pacts to create investments by the Italian government-owned oil company Eni in the African country for 50 bilion dollars.[142][143][144] The following day he visited the Republic of Congo where he met President Denis Sassou Nguesso, with whom he signed a cooperation for the extraction of oil in the country.[143][145][146] Some journalists criticized the meeting with Sassou Nguesso, who is considered one of the more corrupt dictators of Africa.[147] Renzi later met with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda.[148][149] During the visit, Renzi placed a memorial wreath in the mausoleum of the first Angolan President, Agostinho Neto.[150]

On 24 July, under the direction of Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, the government worked for the release of Mariam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman had been who sentenced to death for being a Christian. Thanks largely to the good relations between Sudan and Italy, Ibrahim was released and permitted to fly to Italy on a government plane.[151][152]

On 2 December, Renzi went to Algiers, where he met Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. With the two leaders of the country, Renzi discussed the Libyan crisis, immigration from North Africa, and also about gas imports from Algeria as an alternative to Russian imports, following the tensions between the European Union and Russia.[153][154]

Russia[edit]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Matteo Renzi at the opening of Russia Day at Expo 2015.

Russia had previously enjoyed a privileged relationship with Italy, particularly under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi, who was a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.[155] Following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, however, relations worsened. On 2 March 2014, Renzi accused Putin of having committed "an unacceptable violation".[156][157] On 19 March, during a speech to the Chamber of Deputies, Renzi stated that the Crimean status referendum was illegal and that the G8 countries must start cooperating to solve the crisis and prevent a return to the Cold War.[158] In June, he subsequently participated in the G7 summit in Brussels, the first one held after the suspension of Russia from the G8 following the annexation of Crimea in March.[159][160]

Renzi phoned Putin on August 28, asking him to stop the "intolerable escalation" and to reach a peace agreement with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to stop the pro-Russian conflict in that regions.[161] Renzi and Putin also had a bilateral meeting on 16 October, when Renzi hosted the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan with 53 other leaders of the world.[162] On November 15, during the G-20 summit in Brisbane, the two leaders had another meeting, where they discussed about the Ukrainian crisis, but also on the civil wars in Libya and Syria.[163]

On 5 March 2015 Renzi met President Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow. The talks between the leaders was focused on international issues, such as settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, the situations in the Middle East and in Libya, as well as fighting terrorism.[164][165] Putin guaranteed Russian support in case of a UN intervention in Libya against the Islamic State.[166][167]

Ahead of the bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Renzi visited and laid flowers at the Moscow bridge, near the Kremlin, on which the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, a few days before.[168]

Middle East[edit]

On 2 August, Renzi met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, holding talks about a variety of issues, including the Israel-Gaza conflict. Renzi stated that Italy would support the Egyptian truce proposal, with the two leaders calling for an immediate cease-fire and the beginning of peace treaties.[169][170][171] In making the visit, Renzi became the first Western leader to visit President el-Sisi since his election. On 15 January 2015, after Islamic State's conquests in Libya, Renzi had a long phone call with Sisi, to discuss the terrorist threat in the Mediterranean; the two leaders agreed that the next steps should be political and diplomatic efforts through the United Nations.[172]

On 11 July 2015, a car bomb explodes outside the Italian consulate in the Egyptian capital Cairo resulting in at least one death and four people injured, responsibility was claimed by ISIS.[173][174][175]

On 20 August 2014 Renzi visited Iraq, a visit which occurred during the insurgency of the Islamic State.[176] Renzi met the Head of State Fuad Masum, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his immediate predecessor Nouri al-Maliki.[177] On the same day, 20 August 2014, Renzi went to Erbil to meet the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Mas'ud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani.[178] While Renzi was in Iraq, the Italian Parliament approved the proposal to arm the Peshmerga soldiers who were fighting against the Islamic State.[179]

On 23 September, during the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations, Renzi had a bilateral meeting with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, discussing climate change and increasing tensions in the Middle East.[180] On 11 December Renzi then travelled to Ankara for a second meeting with Erdoğan, during which Renzi expressed his support for Turkish accession to the European Union. On the same day he met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.[181]

On 8 January 2015, Renzi made his first official trip of the year when he met Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi to address issues of foreign policy and economic issues such as Alitalia-Etihad.[182] The two leaders discussed joint co-operation domains and enhancing trade exchange and cooperation in the energy and aerospace fields.[183]

Renzi had good relations both with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.[184] On 21 and 22 July 2015 he had been in Tel Aviv, where he met Netanyahu and spoke to the Knesset, and in Bethlehem, to met Abbas.[185] Renzi was the first leader to visit Israel after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal reached between international community and Iran; while Netanyahu heavily criticised the deal, Renzi supported it, but stressed that the "safety of Israel is the one of all the Western world."[186]

Elections[edit]

2014 European election[edit]

In the European Parliament election held on 25 May 2014, the first national election Renzi had faced since becoming Prime Minister, his Democratic Party won 40.8% of the vote with 11,203,231 votes, becoming by far the largest party in the country with 31 MEPs.[187] The PD won the most votes of any single party across the whole of the European Union, won the largest number of MEPs for any single party, and became the largest group in the Socialists and Democrats European Parliament group.[188]

The Democratic Party's vote share was the best result for an Italian party in a nationwide election since the 1958 general election, when the Christian Democracy won 42.4% of the vote. The positive electoral result enabled Renzi to successfully nominate his Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, as the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, ensuring that an Italian would occupy one of the EU's two most powerful political positions.[189]

2015 Presidential election[edit]

Renzi congratulates new President Sergio Mattarella after his election.

Giorgio Napolitano announced his immediate retirement as President of Italy on 14 January 2015. Napolitano had been convinced to stand again as President following the political uncertainty generated by the 2013 general election, but had made it clear he would retire at some point before June 2015. On 29 January, during the National Assembly of the Democratic Party, Renzi officially announced that he would endorse Sergio Mattarella, a judge on the Constitutional Court and a former Minister of Defence, as his candidate for the Italian presidential election to replace Napolitano.[190]

It had been thought, due to the high threshold a candidate requires in the first three rounds of balloting in a presidential election, that Renzi would be forced to seek a compromise candidate with Silvio Berlusconi. However, despite Berlusconi's stringent opposition to Mattarella, Renzi instructed the Democratic Party to abstain from the first three rounds of balloting in an attempt to force a fourth ballot which required a far lower threshold for victory. Despite the risk this strategy involved, centrist parties announced at the last moment that they would support Mattarella on the fourth ballot, and he subsequently won the presidential election with 665 votes out of 1009 from Senators and Deputies. Renzi was able to secure his chosen candidate's election by also unexpectedly securing last-minute support from the conservative New Centre-Right, the socialist Left Ecology Freedom and the liberal Civic Choice.[191]

Political views[edit]

Matteo Renzi speaks during a Democratic rally in Bologna.

The nature of Renzi's progressivism is a matter of debate and has been linked both to liberalism and populism.[192][192][193] According to Maria Teresa Meli of Corriere della Sera, Renzi "pursues a precise model, borrowed from the British Labour Party and Bill Clinton's Democratic Party", comprising "a strange mix (for Italy) of liberal policy in the economic sphere and populism. This means that, on one side, he will attack the privileges of trade unions, especially of the CGIL, which defends only the already protected, while, on the other, he will sharply attack the vested powers, bankers, Confindustria and a certain type of capitalism."[194]

Renzi has occasionally been compared to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his political views.[195] Renzi himself has previously cited Blair as an inspiration for him, and claims to be as supporter of Blair's ideology of the Third Way, which attempts to synthesise liberal economics and left-wing social policies.[196][197] In an interview with the Italian talk show, Che tempo che fa, Renzi stated that his meeting with Bill and Hillary Clinton was the most interesting part of his trip to the United States, because he considered them as models of the progressive left-wing.[198]

Public image[edit]

A graffiti image of Renzi.

According to public opinion surveys in May 2014, just after the European election, Renzi's approval rating was 70.4%, the highest one for an Italian Prime Minister.[199] The lowest point was scored in June 2015, with an approval around the 35%.[200]

In 2014, Renzi was ranked as the third most influential under 40 person in the world, by the American magazine Fortune and in the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy.[9]

Renzi has stated he is a fan of the American TV series House of Cards; some observers noted similarities between the rise to power of the character Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and the manner in which Renzi replaced Enrico Letta as Prime Minister.[201] This comparison was strengthened when, in June 2015, some eavsdropping between Renzi and a general of the Finance Guard, Michele Adinolfi, were published on the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. During the phone call Renzi described Letta as an incapable and informed Adinolfi of his imminent appointing as new Prime Minister, that would happen few weeks later.[202][203]

Personal life[edit]

In 1999 Renzi married Agnese Landini, a teacher, with whom he has three children.[204] Renzi is a regular Mass-goer and was active in a Catholic branch of the Scouts.[205] Renzi is an avid football fan, and supports Fiorentina, the team of his hometown Florence.[206]

At the 2014 local elections, his sister Benedetta was elected a municipal councillor for the Democratic Party in Castenaso, a small comune near Bologna.[207] Renzi's father, Tiziano, had previously been a municipal councillor in Rignano sull'Arno, near Florence, for the Christian Democracy.[208]

Cabinet[edit]

Main article: Renzi Cabinet

The Renzi Cabinet was sworn in by President Giorgio Napolitano on 22 February 2014, becoming the 63rd Cabinet of the Italian Republic. The Cabinet is composed of 17 members, with eleven coming from the Democratic Party, two from the New Centre-Right, one from the Union of the Centre and three independents. The Cabinet is Italy's youngest to date, with an average age of 47.[39] In addition, it is also the first in which the number of female ministers is equal to the number of male ministers, excluding the Prime Minister.[40][41]

Ministry First
(2014–present)
Party
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Democratic Party
Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano New Centre-Right
Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini Democratic Party
Paolo Gentiloni Democratic Party
Minister of Economy and Finances Pier Carlo Padoan Independent
Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti Democratic Party
Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando Democratic Party
Minister of Economic Development Federica Guidi Independent
Minister of Labour Giuliano Poletti Independent
Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Maurizio Lupi New Centre-Right
Graziano Delrio Democratic Party
Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina Democratic Party
Minister of Education Stefania Giannini Democratic Party
Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin New Centre-Right
Minister of the Environment Gian Luca Galletti Union of the Centre
Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini Democratic Party
Minister of Regional Affairs Maria Carmela Lanzetta Democratic Party
Minister of Constitutional Affairs Maria Elena Boschi Democratic Party
Minister of Public Administration Marianna Madia Democratic Party

Authored books[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Michele Gesualdi
President of Florence Province
2004–2009
Succeeded by
Andrea Barducci
Preceded by
Leonardo Domenici
Mayor of Florence
2009–2014
Succeeded by
Dario Nardella
Preceded by
Enrico Letta
Prime Minister of Italy
2014–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Guglielmo Epifani
Secretary of the Democratic Party
2013–present
Incumbent
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Laura Boldrini
as President of the Chamber of Deputies
Order of precedence of Italy
as Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Alessandro Criscuolo
as President of the Constitutional Court