Colombo, Emilio

(1920– )
   Born in the deep south of Potenza in Basilicata, Colombo went from militance in Azione Cattolica Italiana (ACI)/Catholic Action to candidacy in the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC) while still in his twenties. He was one of the youngest delegates to the Constituent Assembly in June 1946. On election to the Parliament on the DC list, he served in the first governments of Alcide De Gasperi as undersecretary for agriculture. Over the next 10 years, he dominated the agriculture ministry, eventually becoming minister, and played an important role in the modernization of Italy’s rural regions. In Amintore Fanfani’s first government, he was minister of foreign trade. He continued in that post in the governments of Antonio Segni, Fernando Tambroni, and Fanfani II and IV while also becoming a member of the DC National Council. He became minister of the treasury in the 1960s, serving in the governments headed by Giovanni Leone and Aldo Moro. He was to hold the treasury post longer than anyone in the history of the republic.
   For two years (1970–1972), he was president of the Council of Ministers. He gained foreign policy experience by being minister for United Nations (UN) relations in Giulio Andreotti’s first government in 1972. In addition to constant reelection from PotenzaMatera, he was elected to the European Parliament in 1976, a body that he eventually served as president.
   Colombo’s service as foreign minister in the government of Arnaldo Forlani in 1980 was a precursor to his appointment to the same post in the two governments of Giovanni Spadolini (1981–1983) and the fifth Fanfani government. During the Spadolini governments, he launched, together with his German counterpart, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a major initiative to revitalize the European Community’s institutions and policies. The initiative led to the “solemn declaration” of Stuttgart in June 1983 that restored momentum to a Community that was, at that moment, riven with dissent over the budget contributions of its member states. Colombo was the third Italian politician (after De Gasperi and Segni) to be given the Charlemagne award by the European Parliament for his contributions to European integration.
   Colombo’s priestlike demeanor belied his shrewdness in using Italian state aid for the benefit of his Basilicata political constituency. One of the few Italian politicians who has been both a successful national powerbroker and a respected international figure, Colombo continues to play an active role in politics, as life senator.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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