The Red Prince: Giorgio Napolitano

On June 29th, 1925, Naples gave birth to Italy’s eleventh president, Giorgio Napolitano. He is the first former Communist to rise to Italy’s highest office: President of the republic. Napolitano has risen in the ranks for over fifty years and is currently marked by a moderate stance. This eighty-year-old man has made a mark in Italian and European society and is known for his gentle manners and moral consistency. Napolitano is not only the President of Italy, but also a parliament speaker and interior minister.

Giorgio Napolitano graduated in law from Naples University in December 1947  after writing a dissertation on political economy. In 1942, he joined a group of anti-Fascists. Since Napolitano was heavily invested in democratic ideals, fascism was something which he was completely against and wanted to see something new within his country. Following his initiation into this group of anti-fascists, he became apart of the Italian Communist Party in 1945. Napolitano was a militant and soon became a leader until the Democratic Party of the Left was established. The Democrats of the Left, also referred to as the Italian Democratici di Sinistra, is an Italian political party and historically Western Europe’s largest communist party. Dissidents of the extreme left wing of the Italian Socialist Party had founded the party in January 1921. After 1926, the PCI went underground to establish an organization that later proved important to the Italian Resistance. During the 1920s and ’30s the PCI established strong links with the government of the Soviet Union” (Britannica). Within this party, he fought to end the isolation of the group by attempting to talk with Italian and European socialists, soon becoming an early supporter of European integration. Even during the first Gulf war, he spoke out against the withdrawal of Italy’s small contingent. Napolitano fought hard for his ideals. In the words of Giorgio Napolitano, “No one, no social group, can today avoid the commitment to contribute to the clean up of public finances in order to prevent the financial collapse of Italy. The sacrifices will not be in vain, especially if the economy begins to grow again” (Brainy Quote).

From the years 1946 to 1948, Napolitano was a member of the Secretariat of the Italian Economic Centre for Southern Italy. Along with this, he was an active member in the movement for the Rebirth of South Italy for over ten years. In the year 1953, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and was continuously re-elected in the Naples constituency, along with being a Member of Parliament until 1966. During the 1980s, his main focus was on international and European policy issues. From 1984 to 1996 he was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Italian Delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly. In the year 1989, he became a member of the European Parliament until 1992 and was later elected speaker of the Chamber of Deputies later that same year on June 3rd. In 1997, he was awarded the Leibnitz-Ring Award In Hannover for his life long commitment, in recognition of his dedication to the cause of Parliamentary democracy and his contribution to the rapprochement between the Italian Left and European Socialism. His first huge accomplishment occurred on September 23rd, 2005, which was the day he was appointed life Senator by the President of the Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. This is considered to be one of the greatest honors in Italy. With this title, he became “…a member of the senate or equivalent upper chamber of legislature who has a life tenure”. The following year on May 10th, 2006, Napolitano was elected as the President of the Republic with five hundred and forty three votes. He was later sworn-in on May 15th, 2006. He later was re-elected on April 20th, 2013, receiving seven hundred and thirty eight votes and sworn-in on April, 22nd, 2013.

Over the years, he received a great deal of awards, including:

  • Honorary Professor of the University of Trento (2008)
  • Degrees from the University of Bari (2004)
  • The University “Complutense” of Madrid (2007)
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2008)
  • The University of Naples “L’Orientale” (2009)
  • The Sorbonne of Paris (2010)
  • The University of Oxford (2011)
  • The Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna (2012)

“’He’s a real statesman, he’s fair-minded, he’s a true believer in democracy, a friend of the United States and he will carry out his office with impartiality and fairness,” Richard Gardner, the US Ambassador to Italy from 1977 to 1981, told AP Television News’” (New York Times).  Though he is a part of the communist party, he has very strong democratic values. Interestingly, though he is the current president of Italy, his most powerful position was interior minister. As stated within the New York Times:

“But his top government job to date was as interior minister, in the 1996-1998 government headed by Romano Prodi. Napolitano was then the first former communist at the helm of the Interior Ministry, a post that commands the country’s police forces and had been traditionally held by Christian Democrats. During his stint, he was criticized for failing to respond quickly to a wave of thousands of Albanian refugees coming to Italian shores. He took a strong stance against the right-wing Northern League party, which at the time was advocating secession for the country’s affluent north”.

Along with his presidency and his position as an interior minister, he was a speaker of the lower house of parliament between the years of 1992 and 1994, which is said to have been years of heightened tensions due to governmental corruption and scandal. For five years—up until 2004—within the European Parliament he served as a chairman of its committee on constitutional affairs. Many of his supporters praise him for his stable attitude and elegant manners; he has even been said to look like the last king of Italy, which earned him the nickname “Red Prince”. However, those who criticize Napolitano say that he is excessively cautious and lacks political courage. Though he is looked at to be an individual who is strong, he is also very humble and quiet. Though criticized, he is still a well-respected intellectual and lecturer, capturing the attention of all of those who choose to listen to him. He recently published a memoir entitled From the Italian Communist Party to European Socialism: A Political Autobiography.

Being a political figure, it is inevitable that Giorgio Napolitano will be praised and criticized at the same time. For an eighty year old man, he is still making a huge impact within his country and continues to make himself relevant in the political world, regardless of his age. Napolitano has been honored continuously and with all the praise, he still puts his focus on making the country of Italy as great as possible.


Works Cited:

Donadio, Rachel. “From Ceremonial Figure to Italy’s Quiet Power Broker.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Dec. 2011. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Democrats of the Left (political Party, Italy).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.

“Giorgio Napolitano Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.

“Presidenza Della Repubblica.” The President Giorgio Napolitano. N.p., Apr. 2013. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.