At the head of the country, he had had to manage a particularly turbulent phase. Former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (2006-2015), historical leader of the Communist Party and promoter of European integration, died on Friday at the age of 98.
The entire political class of the peninsula paid tribute to this Neapolitan born under Mussolini on June 29, 1925 and who knew as head of state many governments in an Italy with chronically unstable executives. Giorgia Meloni, leader of the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia party and president of the council since October 2022, soberly offered "the deepest condolences" of her cabinet to the family of the former president.
The present President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, recalled the European commitment of the former Member of the Parliament of Strasbourg who led "important battles for social development, peace and progress in Italy and Europe". In a telegram to his widow, Pope Francis, on a trip to Marseille, praised a man who devoted his political action to preserving the "unity and concord" of his country.
In France, former Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici hailed a "passionate European" and a "political giant". "I had immense admiration and filial affection for him," he wrote Friday in a message on X (ex-Twitter).
A communist turned social democrat, passionate European, great parliamentarian and then President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano was a giant of politics. I had immense admiration and filial affection for him. I feel great sadness. pic.twitter.com/XYLHxld9lY
— Pierre Moscovici (@pierremoscovici) September 22, 2023
Moderation and a sense of state
Considered for years as the guarantor of Italy's stability, Giorgio Napolitano was elected in 2006. He planned to retire at the end of his first seven-year term in the spring of 2013, after the legislative elections. But the election results, which were too close, and the inability of the main parties to agree on a possible successor, had forced him to return to service.
But as soon as his inaugural speech, particularly harsh towards the political leaders whose "deafness" he had denounced in the face of the country's demands, he announced that he would not stay seven more years and had indeed resigned in January 2015. From the resignation of Romano Prodi in 2008 after only two years in government to the arrival of Matteo Renzi in February 2014, including the resignations of Silvio Berlusconi, Mario Monti and Enrico Letta, Giorgio Napolitano has managed a particularly turbulent phase in Italy.
Known for his moderation, prudence and sense of state, he had been integrated into the fascist university groups like most students under Mussolini, but at the same time had enlisted, from the age of 17, in a group of communist resistance fighters, before entering the party in 1945 and being elected for the first time to Parliament in 1953.
Perceived as a reformist, he had however approved the suppression of the Budapest insurrection crushed on November 4, 1956 by Soviet tanks. Giorgio Napolitano visited Budapest in 2006 to pay his respects at the grave of the leader of the uprising, Imre Nagy.