It had happened only to De Nicola and Cossiga. In just over three hours, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi came to the Presidency of the Republic, with the consent of the majority and of the opposition at the time represented by D’Alema and Berlusconi. It was 1999, and the method used for that election was a tangible sign of how much esteem this man enjoyed. It also showed how his training in economics and finance was vital for an Italy that was emerging from a phase of difficult institutional and economic transition; the referendum election and the unfavorable economic situation, characterized by a slowdown in economic growth, were subjects he was familiar with, having dealt with them as the head of the cabinet, a role he took after that of the Head of the Bank of Italy. He was the first Chairman of the Board and Head of the first non-parliamentary state in the history of the Republic; he inaugurated the use of “technicians” in which politics has taken refuge for years later on; his “neutrality”, and of course his human and professional caliber guaranteed him a rapid journey towards the Presidential Palace.
During Ciampi’s governorship, Italy entered the ERM, a move that anticipated Italy’s membership in Maastricht, hence in the euro, which some people strongly criticize at present. As President of the Council at first and as Minister of the Treasury later on, Ciampi gave a healing input to the finances of a state on the brink of bankruptcy, with the reduction of the public debt, crowning his endeavor with the achievement of a goal then deemed impossible by most international observers: Italy has entered the Eurozone.
His pro-European commitment and his relations with high finance are strongly attacked by some people. This dichotomy is perhaps at the root of Italy’s current division: there is a bevy of positive memories on the one hand, but also the leader of the largest opposition party, Matteo Salvini, who even calls him a “traitor”: “Politically speaking, Ciampi is one of the traitors of Italy and of the Italian people, like Napolitano, Prodi, and Monti – explained the leader of the Northern League -. The disaster of 50 million Italians is on his shoulders.”
Needless to say that this position has caused a number of harsh reactions, summarized by the words of the President of the Senate, Grasso, who labels the leader of the Northern League as a “jackal”: “Ciampi – he said – was a great statesman and a great politician, a great man. Exploiting his death, although politically, cannot but be considered looting”. Praise arrives also from Europe: for the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, “a life in Europe’s and Italy’s service, quiet and selfless. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi’s style, thoughts, and values are a legacy we need to preserve.”
In love with democracy
Ciampi was commemorated during the CSM plenum. The Vice President of the CSM, Giovanni Legnini, stressed that “as President of the Superior Council of Magistracy, he constantly guaranteed the autonomy and independence of the judiciary from any other power and the dignity of the individual judges and of their function – said Legnini -. He worked hard to overcome the opposition between politics and the judiciary, believing that tensions did not suit questions of justice and calling each of the powers to the rigor in defending their own field and in showing respect for that of the others. A great Head of State, in love with the republican institutions and democracy.”
The Pope’s words
The Pope sent a telegram to Mrs. Franca: “Carlo Azeglio Ciampi – it says – held public responsibilities with elegant discretion and a strong sense of the state. Recalling the sincere friendship between this illustrious man of the institutions and St. John Paul the second, I raise fervent prayers to ask the Lord to grant his soul eternal peace. With these feelings, I am sending you the apostolic blessing,” Francis concluded.
A man who belonged to a different age
The discretion stressed by the Pope is Ciampi’s distinctive trait as a person. Roberto Rossini, ACLI’s national president, has emphasized it to: “With the death of President Emeritus Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Italy loses a man of exemplary public ethics. A convinced supporter of Europe, but above all, a very sober man.” A man who belonged to a different age: after his death, not only a great president left, but perhaps a piece of Italy, sober, rigorous, practical and prepared, that no longer exists.