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Former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano dies at 98. He played a key role in helping restore market confidence in Italy amid the chaos of the euro zone debt crisis.
As head of state, Napolitano helped Italy through the collapse of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s last government at the height of its debt crisis in 2011, when Italy’s dire economic situation threatened the future of the European Monetary Union. .
He chose Mario Monti, a respected economics professor and former EU commissioner and technocrat, to lead a vast national coalition to help deal with Italy’s woes, drawing criticism from other eurozone governments and European Widely welcomed by the central bank.
Current Italian President Sergio Mattarella praised Napolitano in a statement for his work for “peace and progress in Italy and Europe.” Napolitano began his political career as a member of the Italian Communist Party, fighting fascism.
In his condolence message, Mattarella said Napolitano “promoted the strengthening of community institutions to build an increasingly authoritative and united Europe.”
Napolitano was born in Naples in 1925 and spent the first few decades of his political career rising through the ranks of the Italian Communist Party, then the largest in Western Europe. For many years he served as an elected member of the National Assembly, serving as Speaker and Minister of the Interior, and later held positions in the European Parliament and other parts of the EU government.
But it was during his two terms as president from 2006 to 2015 that Napolitano found his place at the fulcrum of Italian politics, bringing the country’s players together to tackle huge challenges.
Napolitano appointed Monti after Berlusconi resigned in 2011 amid intense market pressure from allies angered by Berlusconi’s unwillingness or inability to carry out necessary market reforms. His choice was welcomed with enthusiasm, and Italy’s 10-year government bond yield fell from nearly 7% at the time to just 2% three years later.
After his intervention, Napolitano’s personal popularity and credibility were so high that, after an inconclusive election, mainstream parties convinced him to stay on for a second term as president. This set a precedent when incumbent Mattarella also accepted a second term last year.
Napolitano resigned midway through his second term in 2015, saying he was 89 years old and could no longer serve.