|Author (Person)||Cordes, Renée|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.9, No.24, 26.6.03, p20|
Italy takes over the EU's rotating six-month presidency from Tuesday, 1 July. Here, Renée Cordes profiles the country's main movers and shakers.
Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi
IN HIS own words, the 66-year-old dynamo known as il Cavaliere (the knight) "is a man nobody can expect to compare himself with".
Worth an estimated &036;9.6 billion, the head of Italy's centre-right coalition government is also the country's richest man. He first became premier in 1994, but was ousted seven months later.
He regained the job in 2001, promising to shed his conflicts of interest and get the economy back on track. So far, neither has happened. Italy's economy is hurting, and Berlusconi still controls a large chunk of its mass media.
Against common sense he acted as his own foreign minister for several months last year, following the resignation of Renato Ruggiero.
The pro-US Berlusconi has never been a huge EU fan. Still, he will undoubtedly bask in the limelight during the Italian presidency, pushing for the signing of a new Treaty of Rome, for which he will doubtless take the credit.
He is expected to be a colourful president of the European Council, with internal corruption scandals haunting him and his taste for telegenic and spectacular gestures.
Foreign Minister: Franco Frattini
AS THE successor to Renato Ruggiero, Frattini has had big shoes to fill. Ruggiero, a former head of the World Trade Organization, had not been Berlusconi's first choice but got the job to give the mainly eurosceptic government some legitimacy in the international arena.
After Ruggiero left in early 2002, Berlusconi took the job on himself but, when that ill-advised experiment failed, he was forced to bring in someone new.
He turned to Frattini, a heavyweight in Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, who served in his first administration as secretary-general of the prime minister's office. At age 46, Frattini is the EU's youngest foreign minister and still a relative unknown outside his own country, where he has served as minister for public administration and regional affairs and as an advisor to the treasury ministry and prime ministers' office.
Deputy Prime Minister: Gianfranco Fini
GIANFRANCO Fini is said to be the eminence grise and political strategist behind Berlusconi.
A very clever communicator, combining the skills of a psychologist and journalist, Fini is determined to give the Italian Right a modern and more European image, inspired rather by Jacques Chirac than by Jean-Marie Le Pen.
As a member of the Convention on the future of Europe, Fini used his fine diplomacy to facilitate a compromise, hoping to enable Italy to take the credit for a new Treaty of Rome.
Fini is expected to be the host and pull the strings during the intergovernmental conference which will be convened in October of this year. He is still considered a post-fascist by many, although he recently repudiated his controversial 1994 statement that Mussolini was the greatest politician of the 20th century. Apparently, he would now rather opt for Alcide de Gasperi, a founding father of the EU.
Economy and Finance Minister: Giulio Tremonti
GIVEN Tremonti's academic background it is easy to understand why he is so serious, but a little more charisma would not hurt. Like a few of his fellow ministers, Tremonti served in the first Berlusconi government, also as finance minister. The former law professor has taken on the difficult challenges of pension reform and eradicating tax evasion.
Tremonti has shown some entrepreneurial spirit in calling for the partial privatization of some of the country's prized cultural treasures like the Colosseum, though that will not be enough to give the economy the jolt it needs. Tremonti entered the European arena ahead of his country's official start at the Union's helm by proposing a massive investment war-chest to boost the flagging EU economies.
Internal Affairs Minister: Giuseppe Pisanu
AN OLD pal of Berlusconi's, Pisanu got his current job after a scandal involving his predecessor Claudio Scajola. From day one Pisanu has been on a mission to fight illegal immigration, which will be a
buzz-phrase during Italy's stint at the EU helm.
Pisanu insists that the fight cannot be won without the support of Italy's European allies. "The problem is European and all of Europe must bear the burden," he has said. That is no surprise given that Berlusconi's government came to power after promising to crack down on organized crime and illegal immigration. During the EU presidency Pisanu will do his utmost to ensure there's no repeat of the violent protests at the July 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.
Defence Minister: Antonio Martino
ITALY'S defence minister is an economist by training, having studied under liberals Milton Friedman and George J. Stigler at the University of Chicago.
He has also taught economics at several universities and is the author of 11 books and some 150 articles and essays. During the presidency he will have to keep the momentum going on the EU's planned rapid reaction force as well as the international fight against terrorism. Not a sheep following the crowd, Martino shocked some countries last year by announcing Italy's withdrawal from the common military freight aeroplane project, the Airbus A-400M.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Italy|