9 August 2017

Romano Prodi – politician

Il Professore became prime minister and European Commission president

Romani Prodi was twice Italy's prime minister
Romani Prodi was twice Italy's prime minister
Romano Prodi, who has twice served as prime minister of Italy, was born on this day in 1939 in Scandiano in Emilia-Romagna.

A former academic, who was nicknamed Il Professore by the Italians, Prodi was also president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.

Prodi graduated from the Catholic University in Milan in 1961 and studied as a postgraduate at the London School of Economics.

After moving up to become professor of economics at Bologna University, Prodi served the Italian government as minister for industry in 1978.

In 1996 after two productive stints as chairman of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, Prodi set his sights on becoming Italy’s prime minister and built a centre-left base of support known as the Olive Tree coalition.

While Silvio Berlusconi used television to campaign, Prodi went on a five-month bus tour round Italy, calling for more accountability in government. His approach appealed to the voters and his coalition won by a narrow margin.

Prodi was appointed prime minister of Italy for the first time on May 17, 1996.

Silvio Berlusconi twice lost out to Prodi in Italian elections
Silvio Berlusconi twice lost out to
Prodi in Italian elections
He remained prime minister for two years and four months, during which time he privatised telecommunications and reformed the government’s employment and pension policies. He significantly reduced the budget deficit to facilitate the country’s acceptance into the European Monetary Union, a task that had seemed impossible before he took office.

When he lost support from left-wing members of his coalition following disputes over the country’s proposed budget, he had to resign in October 1998.

The following year Prodi was appointed president of the European Commission after the entire 20-member commission was forced to resign following charges of widespread fraud and corruption.

During his five-year term, the EU expanded beyond its western European roots to include Malta, Cyprus and eight other countries.

After his term as president of the European Commission ended in 2004, Prodi returned to Italian politics and campaigned to become prime minister again in 2006, pledging to improve the country’s ailing economy and withdraw troops from Iraq.

Prodi with his wife, Flavia Franzoni
Prodi with his wife, Flavia Franzoni
Prodi’s centre-left coalition won a narrow victory over Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right group. Berlusconi initially contested the results but resigned in May 2006.

Prodi’s second term in office lasted one year and eight months until he resigned in January 2008 after losing a confidence vote.

Later that year, Prodi was selected to become president of the African Union-UN peace keeping panel. He is currently serving as the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel.

Prodi has received 20 honorary degrees from institutions in Italy and throughout the rest of the world.

Prodi shares his home town of Scandiano with the biologist  Lazzaro Spallanzani, whose statue in the main square
Prodi shares his home town of Scandiano with the biologist
Lazzaro Spallanzani, whose statue in the main square
Travel tip:

Scandiano, where Romano Prodi was born, is in the province of Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna. The town was founded in 1262 when a defensive castle was built and houses later developed round it. Scandiano was ruled by the princes of Este between 1645 and 1796. The current holder of the title of Marquis of Scandiano is Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, who is also the Duke of Modena. Since the 1960s the town has been an important centre for the production of tiles.

Travel tip:

Romano Prodi and his wife, Flavia, had two sons, Giorgio and Antonio. The family still lives in Bologna, where Prodi used to teach at the University. Bologna has the oldest university in the world, which was established in 1088 and attracted popes and kings as well as students of the calibre of Dante, Copernicus and Boccaccio. The oldest university building, the Archiginnasio, is open to the public from Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 1 pm, and is admission free.

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