Rome

Italy mourns former premier Colombo

Napolitano pays tribute to 'leading player' in Italy and Europe

Italy mourns former premier Colombo

(By Emily Backus) Rome, June 25 - Italy is mourning ex-premier and Life Senator Emilio Colombo, who died late Monday in Rome at the age of 94. Colombo was the last surviving member of the Italian constituent assembly after the death of another former premier, Giulio Andreotti, on May 6. The Italian constituent assembly ran from June 25, 1946 to January 31, 1948 and wrote the Constitution for the Italian Republic after the country abolished the monarchy following World War II. Colombo served as premier from 1970 to 1972 and held almost every senior ministerial portfolio. He was a member of the Christian Democrat (DC) party, which played a dominant role in Italian politics until it collapsed due to the Bribesville corruption scandal in the early 1990s. Colombo was also active in European politics and served as Speaker of the European Parliament from 1977 to 1979. He was twice Italian foreign minister, from 1980 to 1983 and from 1992 to 1993, and also had stints as finance, treasury, agriculture, trade, industry and justice minister. "He was a leading player of Italian and European politics," President Giorgio Napolitano said in a message to Colombo's family. "For decades he bore witness to the values and role of the Christian Democrat party in the various responsibilities he was called to hold, especially regarding economic policy and in the position of premier". In a speech in the Senate, Premier Enrico Letta paid tribute to Colombo as "one of the greatest pro-Europe leaders Italy has ever had, Italy's last Speaker of the European Parliament". The current Speaker of the European Parliament, Germany's Martin Schulz, described Colombo as "one of the cardinal figures of Italian history and of European integration". He added that: "Italy and Europe have lost a great figure - a passionate, honest, far-sighted politician". Former president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi named Colombo Life Senator in February 2003. That year Colombo admitted to prosecutors to using cocaine for "therapeutic purposes" after being called to give evidence for an investigation into a ring alleged to have supplied drugs and prostitutes to high-society figures. He was not accused of any wrongdoing, but two of his bodyguards were arrested and the probe fuelled speculation that the former premier was gay, a claim he never denied. Colombo was born in the southern Italian city of Potenza, Basilicata in 1920 and held a law degree. "He was always strongly attached to his home region as the most deeply rooted and popular representative of Basilicata in the Italian parliament," said Napolitano.

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