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Profile. Italy’s foreign minister has been appointed to lead Italy in the wake of a referendum on his ex-boss’s constitutional reform. Who is Paolo Gentiloni?

Meet Paolo Gentiloni, the next prime minister of Italy

Paolo Gentiloni Silveri is 62 and is married to Emanuela Mauro. He graduated in political sciences. His family background goes back to a noble Marche family, which has to its credit the famous 1913 “Gentiloni Pact” (the secret deal wanted by Giovanni Giolitti and Count Ottorino Gentiloni between Catholics and liberals against the Italian Socialist Party).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs must have appreciated the appeal in favor of Yes in the constitutional referendum signed by a group of former militants of 1968.

Many of those who promoted it were former members of the Workers Movement for Socialism (acronym in Italian Mls, a former Student Movement) led by Mario Capanna, Salvatore Toscano and Luca Cafiero who in the Seventies had his own rally point in Milan.

Actually, Gentiloni made his political apprenticeship in that organization, after a period of Catholic education and demonstrations at Liceo Tasso, a school which was one of the centers of protest in Rome in the ’68.

In 1980, when the Mls and the Pdup began their merger, Gentiloni landed in the newsroom of the magazine Pace e Guerra [Peace and War], which was a monthly publication under the Centro per l’Unità di Sinistra, the Center for the Unity of the Left, promoted by Lucio Magri and Claudio Napoleoni. It evolved later into a weekly directed by Michelangelo Notarianni.

That magazine is a debate forum for the sectors of the left that try to mend the unity broken by the rising Craxism (in a first phase, among the most active there were also Stefano Rodotà and Massimo Cacciari). In that newsroom, Gentiloni became head of the foreign affairs desk, a vocation and interest that he will later set aside for many years until his appointment to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

After the experience at Pace e Guerra, in 1984 he continued his journalistic career. He led for eight years the monthly Nuova Ecologia [New Ecology], with leanings to Legambiente. Then he went on to the national magazine L‘Espresso.

In 1993, he became one of the main collaborators of Francesco Rutelli, who had been elected mayor of Rome as a member of the Greens supported by the center-left coalition. Gentiloni became his spokesperson, his ghostwriter and headed the press office of the Municipality for some time. His career transitioned from journalism to politics when he was appointed by Rutelli Councillor for the Jubilee and tourism, a sensitive position. His performance in 2000 won him a lot of praise.

He later became one of the prominent leaders of the Margherita [the Daisy], the organization founded by Rutelli, where important politicians of Mino Martinazzoli’s People’s Party converge, after their attempt to reorganize the Catholic leadership after the dissolution of the powerful Christian Democrat party (DC). He later became director of the communications department of the Margherita.

Elected to the House for the first time in 2001, Gentiloni was chairman of the Parliamentary Rai Oversight Commission in 2005-2006. During the Prodi government (2006-2008), he was appointed Minister of Telecommunications.

The current fortunes of the foreign minister go back to 2009, when he decided not to follow Rutelli in the controversy against the Democratic Party that had helped to found with the merger DS-Margherita. For the former mayor of Rome, who opposed the merger of the Democratic Party to the Party of European Socialists (PES), the new party was veering dangerously to the left (a completely wrong forecast, a blunder). Rutelli moved on to found the Alliance for Italy (acronym in Italian: API). It wouldn’t become very popular, but his main collaborators — including Gentiloni — remained in the Democratic Party.

Since 2013 he was among the major sponsors of Renzi in the primaries. He later became one of Renzi’s most heeded advisers, both in government and party activities.

During his rising career, Gentiloni faced a bitter setback in 2012. He participated in the primaries to choose the candidate for mayor of Rome of the center-left coalition and came only in third place, behind Ignazio Marino and David Sassoli.

His exposure in the internal competition to the Democratic Party, however, was rewarded by Renzi when he became secretary and prime minister.

In 2014, Gentiloni was called to join the government as the head of the Foreign Ministry. During his tenure, on two occasions he was “corrected” by Renzi: when he announces a possible military engagement in Libya, and when he gave the green light to Italy’s abstention vote at UNESCO on a motion regarding the holy places of Jerusalem and Israel’s responsibility. Renzi reacted at once: “a shocking decision.”

After Renzi’s resignation, Gentiloni is sworn as new Italian Prime Minister on Dec. 12, 2016.

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