FORMER ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER
11-4-1920 - 24-6-2013
Emilio Colombo, the prime minister of Italy at the start of the 1970s who curbed roaring inflation, battled political extremism and legalised divorce in his country while helping to build an integrated Europe, has died in Rome. He was 93.
After World War II, Italian governments formed and fell with dizzying regularity, as did cabinet posts within the governments. Colombo emerged from Roman Catholic youth organisations to win a seat in parliament at 26 and then held virtually every major cabinet position - agriculture, trade, finance, foreign affairs - before he became prime minister for 18 months between 1970-72. The government he headed was Italy's 32nd since the war.
Colombo helped write some of Italy's basic postwar reforms, including those that redistributed land to the poor, nationalised electricity production and spurred development in the nation's south.
A self-described technocrat, Colombo wrote much of the Treaty of Rome, which in 1958 established the European Economic Community, a precursor to the European Community and the European Union.
As prime minister, Colombo, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Party, juggled his and three other parties to form coalitions that would keep power from falling to the communists, whose political strength in Italy exceeded that of any country in Western Europe. He also faced down the neo-Fascist right, survived waves of strikes and violence, and imposed new and higher taxes to successfully fight galloping inflation.
Colombo's coalition collapsed in February 1972, partly over his signing, in 1970, of Italy's first law legitimising divorce. Like the Vatican, his own Christian Democrats opposed the legislation, while leftist members of the coalition demanded it.
In 1974, the law survived an attempt at a repeal, with 59.3 per cent voting to support it.
Emilio Colombo was born on April 11, 1920, to a lower middle-class family in Potenza, south-east of Naples. He earned a law degree from the University of Rome and joined Catholic Action Youth, a Vatican-backed political organisation, rising to vice-president and gaining enough prominence to win a seat in parliament in 1946. That year he was elected to a convention charged with writing a new republican constitution to replace Italy's monarchy. He was the last surviving member of that convention.
In 2003, just after being appointed a senator for life, Colombo disclosed that he had used cocaine three or four times a week for more than a year, claiming it was for "therapeutic purposes". At the same time, he disclosed that he was homosexual. For years he had told interviewers that he was too busy to marry.