Giorgio Napolitano (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒordʒo napoliˈtaːno]; born 29 June 1925) is an Italian politician who has been the 11th President of Italy since 2006. A long-time member of the Italian Communist Party and later the Democrats of the Left, he served as President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994 and as Minister of the Interior from 1996 to 1998.
Appointed as a Senator for life in 2005, he was subsequently elected as President of Italy on 10 May 2006; his term started with the swearing-in ceremony held on 15 May 2006. He is the first President of Italy to have been a member of the Italian Communist Party.
Giorgio Napolitano was born in Naples. 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 membership in the Italian fascism. 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".
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 organised 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. He later measured himself against Joyce and Eliot.
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". However, he published his first book called "Movimento Operaio e Industria di Stato", which can be translated to "Workers' Movement and State Industry" in 1962.
World War II
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. This included occupying the offices of the IX Maggio magazine and using it to publish writings of Karl Marx masked as articles signed by the various components of the group.
From post-war years to the Hungarian revolution
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". (Italian for "The lack of industrial development in the Mezzogiorno following the unification of Italy and the special law of 1904 for Naples"). 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.
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. 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.
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.
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).
From the 1960s to the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party
Napolitano then became the party's federal secretary in Naples and Caserta and later, between 1966 and 1969, he was coordinator of the secretary's office and of the political office. During the 1970s and the 1980s he was the officer responsible first for culture and later for the economic policy and the international relations of the party.
Napolitano's political ideas were 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.
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. 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". 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.
After the dissolution
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 of 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. 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
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.
The centre-left majority coalition, on 7 May 2006, officially endorsed Giorgio 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. 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. Nevertheless, some Italian right-wing newspapers, such as il Giornale, expressed concerns about his communist past. He started his term on 15 May.
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 triumphal World Cup final, after Sandro Pertini.
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.
On 10 February 2007 a diplomatic crisis arose between Italy and Croatia, after President Napolitano took 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 trough the inhuman ferocity of the foibe – was one of the barbarities of the past century. —Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, Rome, 10 February 2007
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 (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. 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; 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. Prodi won the vote in the upper house on 28 February and in the lower house on 2 March, allowing his cabinet to remain in office.
2008 political crisis
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. President Napolitano requested the president of the Senate, Franco Marini, to assess the possibility to form a caretaker government. On 4 February 2008, Marini acknowledged the impossibility of forming an interim government because the centre-right parties would not join, and on 6 February 2008 Napolitano dissolved the Parliament. Elections were held on 13 and 14 April 2008, together with the administrative elections, and won by a coalition of right-wing and center-right parties.
On 7 May 2008, President Napolitano offered Silvio Berlusconi the post of Head of the Italian government, following his 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
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.
2011 political crisis and new government
In November 2011, after barely surviving a motion of no confidence in December 2010, Berlusconi resigned from his post as head of the government, having lost the trust of the Parliament following increasingly dramatic financial and economical 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".
Napolitano's management of the events caused unprecedented worldwide media exposure regarding his role as President of the Italian Republic (usually referred to as nothing more than a ceremonial one) and also won him the nickname "King George" from The New York Times.
Honours and awards
- Knight Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- Knight with Collar Order of Pius IX
- Dan David Prize: To Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, for his dedication to the cause of Parliamentary democracy, thereby contributing to a strengthening of democratic values and institutions in Italy and Europe; and for his courage and intellectual integrity which have been crucial in healing the wounds of the Cold War in Europe, as well as the scars left in Italy in the wake of fascism.
- Slovakia : Grand Cross (or 1st Class) of the Order of the White Double Cross (2007)
- Romania : Sash of the Order of the Star of Romania (2011)
- Poland : Order of the White Eagle (Poland) (2012)
- Mirella Serri (2005). I redenti. Corbaccio.
- Simone Duranti (2008). Lo spirito gregario I gruppi universitari fascisti tra politica e propaganda (1930-1940). Donzelli. http://www.donzelli.it/libro/1783/lo-spirito-gregario.
- Napolitano, Giorgio (2005) (in Italian). Dal Pci al socialismo europeo. Un'autobiografia politica. Laterza. ISBN 88-420-7715-1.
- La Repubblica. "Governo, Napolitano annuncia "Martedì inizio le consultazioni"" (in Italian). http://www.repubblica.it/2006/05/sezioni/politica/nuovo-presidente-5/napolitano-attesa-lunedi/napolitano-attesa-lunedi.html. Retrieved 13 May 2006.
- Graziani, Nicola. "Quirinale: Giorgio Napolitano, il compagno gentiluomo" (in Italian). http://www.agi.it/news.pl?doc=200605101328-1101-RT1-CRO-0-NF81&page=0&id=agionline.italyonline. Retrieved 13 May 2006.[dead link]
- Quirinale.it. "Biography". Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070128072228/http://www.quirinale.it/presidente/altrelingue/inglese/presidente-en.htm. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
- Camera.it. "Il Presidente Giorgio Napolitano" (in Italian). http://legxiv.camera.it/organiparlamentarism/6611/6558/6559/6570/documentotesto.asp. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
- Corriere della Sera. ""Principe rosso", violò il tabù del Viminale" (in Italian). http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Politica/2006/05_Maggio/08/principe-rosso.shtml. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
- "Giorgio Napolitano". Mahalo.com. http://www.mahalo.com/giorgio-napolitano/. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- CNN. "Italy finally agrees on president". http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/05/10/italy.president.ap/index.html. Retrieved 13 May 2006.[dead link]
- La Repubblica. "Da Berlusconi auguri con freddezza. Calderoli: "Non lo riconosciamo"" (in Italian). http://www.repubblica.it/2006/05/sezioni/politica/nuovo-presidente-4/commenti-centrodestra/commenti-centrodestra.html. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
- Il Giornale. "Sul colle sventola bandiera rossa" (in Italian) (PDF). http://www.ilgiornale.it/pag_pdf.php?ID=25532. Retrieved 14 May 2006.
- International Herald Tribune. "Italy's president pays tribute in Hungary to 1956 revolution". http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/09/26/europe/EU_GEN_Hungary_Italy_1956.php. Retrieved 6 October 2006.
- 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
- «....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
- "l'Unità.it – Giorgio Napolitano: "Foibe ignorate per cecità e calcolo" – Politica". Unita.it. 20 September 2008. http://www.unita.it/view.asp?IDcontent=63512. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- Ravennainforma.com[dead link]
- "Italian PM hands in resignation". BBC News. 21 February 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6383051.stm. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- "Italian PM asked to resume duties". BBC News. 24 February 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6391669.stm. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- "Italian PM survives Senate vote". BBC News. 28 February 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6403561.stm. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- "Italian PM survives House vote". CNN News. 28 February 2007. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070305020806/http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/03/02/italy.prodi.reut/index.html. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- "Prodi loses crucial Senate vote". BBC. 24 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7208000.stm. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- Aloisi, Silvia (4 February 2008). "News World – Italy Senate speaker fails to form govt, vote looms". Signonsandiego.com. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20080204-1053-italy-government-.html. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- (Italian) "Domani lo scioglimento delle camere". Ansa. 5 February 2008. Archived from the original on 4 February 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080204214404/http://www.ansa.it/opencms/export/site/visualizza_fdg.html_12342748.html. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
- "AFP: Italy heads towards fresh elections". Afp.google.com. 5 February 2008. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jJDXtKn83PJ0X2f_f8ALmkK4-G7g. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- "Italian right-to-die row deepens". BBC News. 7 February 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7876961.stm. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
- Rachel Donadio (3 December 2011). "From Ceremonial Figure to Italy’s Quiet Power Broker". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/world/europe/president-giorgio-napolitano-italys-quiet-power-broker.html. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Giorgio Napolitano". Dan David Prize. http://www.dandavidprize.org/index.php/laureates/laureates-2010/110-2010-past-march-towards-democracy/270-giorgio-napolitano.html. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2007 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)