Prodi, Romano


Prodi, Romano
born Aug. 9, 1939, Scandiano, Italy

Italian prime minister (1996–98) and from 1999 president of the European Commission, one of the governing bodies of the European Union.

Prodi graduated from Catholic University in Milan in 1961 and did postdoctoral work at the London School of Economics. After serving as a professor of economics at the University of Bologna, he entered government as minister of industry in 1978. In 1996, after two productive stints as chairman of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (1982–89 and 1993–94), he was narrowly elected prime minister as head of the centre-left Olive Tree coalition. During his 28 months in office, Prodi privatized telecommunications and reformed the government's employment and pension policies. Budget disputes with members of his own party led to his resignation in October 1998. His nomination as president of the European Commission was approved by the European Parliament in May 1999, and his term began in September.

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▪ 2000

      Following the release in March 1999 of a scathing report charging members of the European Commission with widespread fraud and corruption, the entire 20-member commission was forced to resign. European leaders immediately began the search for a new president to replace the outgoing Jacques Santer. Emphasis was placed on finding a reformer who could reorganize the commission to prevent future abuses of power. On May 5 the European Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority the nomination of former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, an economics professor who had managed Italy's economy well enough to earn the country acceptance as a member of the European Monetary Union (EMU). Prodi's appointment was officially confirmed in September.

      Prodi was born on Aug. 9, 1939, in Scandiano, Italy. After graduating from Catholic University, Milan, in 1961, he did postdoctoral work at the London School of Economics, served as a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1974, and took a post in Italy as a professor of economics and industrial policy at the University of Bologna. He entered government service as Italy's minister for industry (1978–79). After two productive stints (1982–89 and 1993–94) as chairman of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, the Italian government's holding company, Prodi made a run for prime minister against the wealthy incumbent, Silvio Berlusconi.

      Prodi, taking advantage of Italian electoral reform, built a centre-left base of support that he called the Olive Tree coalition. While Berlusconi used television to campaign, Prodi made a five-month bus tour around the country, calling for more accountability in government. Though accused by opponents of being bland, Prodi took a consensus-building approach to governing that appealed to voters yearning for a stable government, a rarity in Italy. The Olive Tree coalition won by a narrow margin, and Prodi was appointed prime minister on May 17, 1996.

      During his 28 months in office, Prodi instituted a number of changes that included privatizing telecommunications and reforming the government's employment and pension policies. He successfully massaged the Italian economy, significantly reducing the budget deficit in order to get the country accepted into the EMU—a task that seemed all but impossible when he took office. The Prodi government came to an end in October 1998 when it lost the support of its left-wing membership during a dispute over the proposed budget. Prodi had planned to form a new political party and make another run for prime minister his selection for the European Commission's presidency.

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ prime minister of Italy
born Aug. 9, 1939, Scandiano, Italy
 
 Italian politician who was twice prime minister of Italy (1996–98; 2006–08) and who served as president of the European Commission (1999–2004).

      Prodi graduated from Catholic University in Milan in 1961 and did postdoctoral work at the London School of Economics. After serving as a professor of economics at the University of Bologna, he entered government as minister of industry in 1978. In 1996, after two productive stints as chairman of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (1982–89 and 1993–94), he ran for prime minister. Prodi, taking advantage of Italian electoral reform, built a centre-left base of support named the Olive Tree coalition. While incumbent Silvio Berlusconi (Berlusconi, Silvio) used television to campaign, Prodi made a five-month bus tour around the country, calling for more accountability in government. His consensus-building approach to government appealed to voters, and his Olive Tree coalition won by a narrow margin. Prodi was appointed prime minister on May 17, 1996.

 During his 28 months as prime minister, Prodi privatized telecommunications and reformed the government's employment and pension policies. He significantly reduced the budget deficit in order to get the country accepted into the European Monetary Union (EMU), a task that had seemed all but impossible when he took office. Disputes over the country's proposed budget, however, resulted in the loss of support from some left-wing members of his coalition, and Prodi resigned in October 1998. The following year he was named president of the European Commission, a key institution of the European Union (EU). His appointment came after the entire 20-member commission was forced to resign amid 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 eastern and central European members.

      After his term as president of the European Commission ended in 2004, Prodi returned to Italian politics and in 2006 ran for prime minister. Among his campaign pledges were improving the country's ailing economy and withdrawing troops from Iraq (see Second Persian Gulf War (Iraq War)). In the April 2006 elections, Prodi's centre-left coalition won a narrow victory over Silvio Berlusconi (Berlusconi, Silvio)'s centre-right bloc. Berlusconi initially contested the results, but in May he resigned. Prodi was sworn in as prime minister later that month. His second term lasted 20 months; he resigned after losing a confidence vote in January 2008.

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Universalium. 2010.

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