Open Europe Blog

We’ve detected strong demand for a quick profile on Enrico Letta, who has just been appointed Italy’s new Prime Minister. With the debate raging over the wisdom or otherwise of German-style fiscal discipline in the eurozone, the big question is: is Letta against austerity? Here’s a short bio:

  • He holds a PhD in European Law, and was appointed Europe Minister in 1998. At the time, he was 32 – which made him the youngest Italian minister ever. He also served as Industry Minister under Massimo D’Alema.
  • Letta was an MEP between 2004 and 2006. 
  • He’s been the deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party since 2009.
  • Importantly, he is a big AC Milan fan – which could help him win support from Silvio Berlusconi. Well, perhaps along with the fact that Enrico Letta is the nephew of Gianni Letta, Il Cavaliere‘s closest aide. 

    So what about his political views and that key austerity point?

    In his press statement after the meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, Letta said Italy should be

    “firmly committed to changing the direction of EU [economic] policies [which are] too focused on austerity, which as European Commission President [José Manuel] Barroso said the other day are no longer sufficient.”

    (Hallo, Angela!) 

    And remember that when the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize, Letta tweeted the award should be

    “a spur to be prouder, more concrete and effective in our pro-European stance. There’s no future without the United States of Europe.” 

    This goes to show he is strongly in favour of more EU integration (though admittedly so are a majority of Italian politicians). In other words, Napolitano has appointed a Prime Minister with solid European credentials and who can credibly argue for an easing of austerity in the EU. Quite smart. 

    Crucially, Letta also stressed the new government won’t be formed “at any cost”. This can be seen as a warning to Silvio Berlusconi not to set out too tough conditions for lending his support. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Berlusconi’s centre-right alliance is ahead in all opinion polls – meaning Silvio is in a position of strength right now.

    Letta will hold talks with all other political parties tomorrow. If things move on smoothly, we should have the list of ministers by the end of the week. Follow us on Twitter @OpenEurope and @LondonerVince for further updates from Italy. 

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