Rome

Likely premier seen as moderate with cross-party ties

Enrico Letta staunchly pro-European, politically adaptable

Likely premier seen as moderate with cross-party ties

(By Sandra Cordon and Denis Greenan). Rome, April 24 - In selecting Enrico Letta to be Italy's probable next premier, President Giorgio Napolitano has opted for generational change combined with experience, moderation and a certain political flexibility. Letta, 46, will be the third-youngest premier in Italy's history and despite the fact he has been deputy head of centre-left Democratic Party (PD) for the past four years, he is seen as a moderate. The former Christian Democrat also boasts ties with the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party - his uncle, Gianni Letta, has been ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's longtime chief of staff. All this suggests Letta possesses a kind of political adaptability that may be just what the Italian government needs after two months of logjam. He addressed that Wednesday after accepting a government-formation mandate from Napolitano "with reservations" - political jargon to indicate his cautious optimism. Italians "are fed up with political games," Letta said. "I will put all I have...with great determination," to help restore faith in politics, he vowed. He also brings experience - Letta became a cabinet minister at age of 32, the youngest ever to hold such a post in the country's history. Once described as a "rising star" in the industry portfolio, Letta first served as minister for European Union affairs, and - holding an advanced degree in European legal studies - is said to be staunchly pro-Europe. That could hold promise for the administration at a time when many Italians are questioning the value of remaining in the common currency as well remaining involved in pan-European political structures. He has also been a member of the European Parliament and reportedly speaks fluent English, like Napolitano, an invaluable asset in handling international affairs. Letta went to school in Strasbourg before getting a degree in international law from Pisa University. Letta, who was born in the Tuscan city of Pisa, was first elected to the Lower House in the 2006 general election for the Olive Tree coalition, led by economist and former European Commissioner Romano Prodi. He has lectured occasionally at the Libera Universita' Cattaneo near Milan, Pisa University and the Haute Ecole de Commerce in Paris. He has been deputy president of the ASPEN Institute Italia since 2004. Letta is a fan of the cult Dylan Dog horror comics series featuring a paranormal investigator. He supports Serie A giant and seven-time European champions AC Milan, which is owned by Berlusconi. One of Letta's favourite pastimes is playing five-a-side football.

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