Enrico Letta

 

Prime Minister of Italy from April 2013 until his resignation in February 2014, Enrico Letta managed to keep his government on track despite defections from his centre-right coalition partners and a slender majority in the Italian parliament – only to be unseated by his own Democratic Party (PD).

Letta was a founding member of the PD in 2007. However, his political career began in the Christian Democrats, at a time when the party was a diverse mix of right- and left-leaning factions. From 1991 to 1995 Letta was president of the youth wing of the European People’s Party (EPP), of which the Christian Democrats were members.

Like many other players in the post-Cold War maelstrom of Italian politics, Letta has switched parties more than once. He joined the Italian People’s Party in 1994, following the collapse of the Christian Democrats.

Aligned with the centre-left, Letta became European affairs minister in Massimo D’Alema’s government in 1998. Aged just 32, he was the youngest cabinet minister in post-war Italy. In 1999, he became industry minister and then was elected to parliament in 2001 as a member of the centrist and centre-left ‘Daisy’ grouping.

A convinced European, Letta was elected as an MEP in 2004 – sitting in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group – before returning to Rome in 2006 as cabinet secretary to Romano Prodi’s government.

His nominal passing from centre-right, to Liberal, to centre-left was confirmed when he helped found the PD, now a member of the Party of European Socialists. Letta stood in the first leadership election, coming third, and then backed the eventual winner, Pier Luigi Bersani, in the next election in 2009.

Letta emerged as a compromise candidate to lead the government in April 2013, following weeks of stalled negotiations. He formed a broad-ranging coalition government, including the People of Freedom party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (for whom Letta’s uncle had worked as an advisor).

Letta’s time as prime minister has been marked by crisis and instability – much of it out of his hands, and much surrounding the fate of Berlusconi. He had much support (and sympathy) from his European Council colleagues, and pledged himself to fight ‘like a lion’ for the survival of the government. However, the ambitions of the new PD leader, Matteo Renzi, to speed up economic and political reform saw him unseated.

Enrico Letta is keen to contribute to the development of the EU – including a functioning and strong Italy. He (and others) may decide that a position in Brussels – possibly as President of the European Council or even a compromise candidate for the Commission presidency – may be the best way to do this.

 

 

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