Former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, a former communist who helped steer his country through a debt crisis in 2011, died today at the age of 98. The Prime Minister's office, Giorgia Meloni, expressed the Italian government's condolences to the Napolitano family.
The political career of Giorgio Napolitano, born in 1925, began during his university years. He enrolled in the Faculty of Law in Naples in 1942. Passionate about literature and theater, he worked as a theater critic in a magazine of the time. In those years he came into contact with a group of young communists and in 1945 he joined the Communist Party, whose general secretary he was in Naples and Caserta. In 1947 he finished his university studies and graduated and 6 years later, in 1953, he began to take the first steps by becoming a deputy in the electoral unit of the Neapolitan city until 1996.
In the 60s his political thought changed its approach after being inspired by the values ??of democratic socialism along the lines of Giorgio Amendola. He thus gave life to the "right" current of the party. A movement that was called "meliorist" and that proposed an improvement of the living conditions of the working class.
In the 70s he developed activities abroad: he held conferences at the best English, German and even American universities.
He was the first Communist Party leader to receive a visa to the United States. In 1986 he headed the foreign policy committee, pushing the party toward a "full and faithful" opening to the United States and NATO. Speaking about Napolitano, Henry Kissinger said: "He is my favorite communist."
In 1989 he assumed the role of Foreign Minister and joined the European socialist current. Thus began the reform of the PCI which turned into the Democratic Party of the Left. In 1991 he traveled to Israel, strengthening his connection to the demands of the Jewish community.
In 1992 he was elected President of the Chamber, replacing Oscar Luigi Scalfaro who ascended the Quirinale. Those were the years marked by Tangentopoli and the break with Bettino Craxi. In 1994 he was chosen by the PDS to announce the vote of Berlusconi's first government. His speech will seal the bond and respect between the two.
In 1996, with Romano Prodi in the government, he held the position of Minister of the Interior.
He was the first ex-communist to hold the highest position in the Ministry of the Interior. After the fall of the Prodi government, he again became a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004 in the ranks of the left-wing democrats. In 2005 Carlo Azeglio Ciampi appointed him senator for life.
In 2006, on the fourth ballot, Giorgio Napolitano was the first ex-communist to become the eleventh president of the Italian Republic, taking over from Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The passage that brought him into history as "King George" (as the New York Times crowned him, comparing him to George VI, the sovereign who became a symbol of British resistance to the Nazis) was that of November 2011 when Mario Monti became prime minister.
Critics spoke of a presidential Republic and of his excessive "intervention". Supporters hailed it as a crucial move to prevent the country from sliding into the abyss after the sovereign debt crisis.
He was the one who then broke the taboo of a double mandate as President of the Republic, almost forced even at an advanced age by the political crisis which proved unable to find a common name in parliament. It was April 20, 2013 and on the sixth ballot he was re-elected with a huge majority of 738 votes in favor out of 997 voters.
He resigned in 2015, citing his age.
In 2018 came the first health problems. He was hospitalized for a heart problem. In 2022, he had a second operation. Even recently, his health had deteriorated.
He visited Albania twice. First as interior minister in 1997 and then as President in 2014. He was always a great supporter of our country's integration into the EU.
Napolitano developed a close relationship with the late Pope Benedict XVI and was one of the few people who was forewarned of Benedict's shock resignation in February 2013.