Home » A westward parable. Remembering Giorgio Napolitano

A westward parable. Remembering Giorgio Napolitano

Giorgio Napolitano life and legacy
The Communist politician who helped shape the Italian left’s Atlanticist path and became the first twice-elected President of the Republic has died in Rome at age 98. An overview of the accomplishments of one of the most influential postwar politicians

Giorgio Napolitano’s passing. The death of the 98 years old Italian politician was confirmed on XXX. He was one of the most influential politicians in postwar Italy, shaping the country’s policies and stance as he moved from the far left towards the centre, from the USSR to NATO, progressing along a political trajectory that culminated in him becoming Italy’s first twice-elected President.

From Naples to the left… Giorgio Napolitano was born in 1925 in the Southern Italian city, where he lived and studied law under the fascist regime and eventually became a local leader of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). He became MP in 1953 and was re-confirmed every time (except for a few years) until 1996. In that period he was one of the PCI’s main architects over the course of its existence.

  • He initially aligned with and justified the USSR’s worldview and actions during the Cold War, only to gradually distance himself over the years and harshly criticise Moscow for invading Afghanistan in 1979.
  • He was also a representative of the PCI’s more moderate and Europeanist wing, working to maintain contact with the Socialists and stating in 1985 that European reformism was the party’s “goal post.”

… and into the (Atlanticist) world. The following year, Mr Napolitano became the head of the PCI’s Foreign Policy and International Relations committee. In that capacity he walked a line of “full and loyal” solidarity with the United States and NATO within his party. He became the first Communist leader to be officially invited by (and obtain a visa for) the US, becoming an Atlanticist reference point for Washington ever since.

  • Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously called him his “favourite communist.”
  • When he visited the White House in 2013, then-President Barack Obama called him a “visionary leader” who “has helped to guide and steer Europe towards greater unification, but always with a strong Transatlantic relationship in mind.”

The steadiest hand. After stints as President of Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies (1992-1994), Interior Minister (1996-1998) and MEP (1999-2004), Mr Napolitano became one of Italy’s five senators for life in 2005. The following year he was nominated President, the first PCI member to achieve that role. He would go on to be confirmed twice.

  • During his tenure he ferried Italy through the government crisis sparked by Romano Prodi’s resignation in 2007 and the crumbling of Silvio Berlusconi’s majority during his fourth government in 2011, at the height of the financial crisis (earning international praise for his efforts to defend the democratic institutions).
  • In 2013, after the end of the Monti government and amid a political stalemate resulting from the elections, a broad cross-section of newly-elected MPs asked him whether he would be willing to be re-elected as President. He accepted, becoming Italy’s first twice-elected Head of State.
  • During the traditional end-of-year message in December 2014 he announced he would be stepping down due to age-related difficulties. He was 90.

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