Enrico Letta (pronounced [enˌriːko ˈlɛtta]; born 20 August 1966) is an Italian politician who was Prime Minister of Italy from 2013 to 2014, leading a grand coalition comprising the centre-left Democratic Party, the centre-right People of Freedom, and the centrist Civic Choice. He has also been a Member of the Chamber of Deputies since 2006. Letta was Minister of European Affairs from 1998 to 1999 and Minister of Industry from 1999 to 2001, and served as Secretary to the Council of Ministers from 2006 to 2008.
Letta is a founding member of the Democratic Party; formerly he belonged to Christian Democracy, Italian People's Party and The Daisy. His uncle is centre-right politician Gianni Letta, a trusted advisor of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Early life and education
Enrico Letta was born in Pisa, Tuscany, to Giorgio Letta, an Abruzzo-born professor of mathematics who teaches probability theory at the University of Pisa (member of the Accademia dei Lincei and of the Accademia nazionale delle scienze), and Anna Banchi, a Sardinian born in Sassari and raised in Porto Torres of Tuscan origins. Born into a numerous family, uncles on his father's side include the centre-right politician Gianni Letta—a close advisor of Silvio Berlusconi—and the archeologist Cesare Letta, while one of his paternal aunts, Maria Teresa Letta, is vice president of the Italian Red Cross; a maternal great-uncle is the poet and playwright Gian Paolo Bazzoni.
After spending part of his childhood in Strasbourg he completed his schooling in Italy at the liceo classico Galileo Galilei in Pisa. He has a degree in political science, which he received from the University of Pisa and subsequently obtained a Doctorate at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies (a Graduate School with University status).
Letta began his political career in the party Christian Democracy (DC), the dominant center right Roman Catholic party. From 1991 to 1995 Letta was president of the Youth of the European People's Party, (the official youth wing of the European People's Party—the political party at European level founded by national-level Christian democratic parties, including the Italian DC); he used his presidency to help strengthen long-term connections among a variety of centrist parties in Europe, and has since remained a convinced supporter of the European Union.
During the Ciampi government (1993–1994) he worked as chief-of-staff for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beniamino Andreatta; this left-leaning Christian Democrat economist with whom Letta had already been collaborating in a think tank (Agenzia di Ricerche e Legislazione, AREL) played a highly influential role in his political career.
Following the collapse of the DC in 1994, Letta joined its immediate successor, the much smaller Italian People's Party; after serving as secretary general of the Treasury's Euro Committee (1996–1997), he became deputy secretary of the party in 1997–1998, when it was fully allied with the centre-left. In 1998, he was appointed Minister of European Affairs in Massimo D'Alema's Cabinet at the age of 32, becoming the youngest cabinet minister in post-war Italy. In 1999 Letta became Minister of Industry. In the 2001 general election he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a member of Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, a newly formed centrist formation to which the Italian People's Party had adhered.
In 2004 Letta left the Italian Parliament to be elected as a member of the European Parliament, where he sat in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group and was a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. In 2006 he returned to the Chamber of Deputies and was made Secretary to the Council of Ministers in the Prodi II Cabinet, thereby succeeding his uncle Gianni Letta who had held the same post in the outgoing third Berlusconi Cabinet, before reconsigning the post to his uncle two years later on the formation of the fourth Berlusconi government.
Having been a founding member of the Democratic Party (PD) in 2007, Letta stood in the first leadership election (an open primary) and came third with 11% of the vote. During the next leadership election of 2009, he supported the eventual winner, Pier Luigi Bersani, and went on to be elected (on 7 November) Deputy Secretary by the party's national convention.
On 20 April 2013, together with the effectiveness of the resignation of the Secretary Bersani, owing to the bankruptcy of the candidates for President of the Republic of Franco Marini and Romano Prodi, during the 2013 presidential election the whole leadership of the Democratic Party, including Deputy Secretary Letta, resigned from their positions.
Prime Minister of Italy
On 24 April 2013, Letta was invited to form a government by President Giorgio Napolitano, after the resignation of Pier Luigi Bersani following weeks of political deadlock after the 2013 general election. On 27 April Letta formally accepted the task of leading a Grand coalition government, with support from the centre-left Democratic Party (of which he stays Deputy Secretary), the centre-right People of Freedom, and the centrist Civic Choice, and subsequently listed the members of his Cabinet. The government he formed became the first in the history of the Italian Republic to include representatives of all the major candidate-coalitions that had competed in the election. His close relationship with his uncle Gianni Letta, one of Silvio Berlusconi's most trusted advisors, was perceived as a way of overcoming the bitter hostility between the two opposing camps. Letta appointed Angelino Alfano, secretary of the People of Freedom, as his Deputy Prime Minister. Letta was formally sworn-in as Prime Minister on 28 April; during the ceremony, a man fired shots outside Palazzo Chigi and wounded two Carabinieri.
On 14 June 2013 Letta promotes a summit at Palazzo Chigi with Ministers of Economy and Labour of Italy, Germany, France and Spain on the issue of youth unemployment. On 15 June, the government issues the "Decree of doing," measure aimed at hiring policies for economic recovery.
On 17 and 18 June, he participated in his first G8 at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.
On 28 September the five ministers of The People of Freedom resigned on the orders of their leader, Silvio Berlusconi, pointing to the decision to postpone the decree that prevented the increase of the VAT from 21 to 22%, thus opening a government crisis. The next day, Letta had a meeting with President Napolitano to take stock of the possible alternatives. Previously the Head of State had said he would dissolve parliament only if there were no possible alternatives.
On 2 October, Letta won a parliamentary vote of confidence. Dozens of Berlusconi's supporters prepared to defy him and vote in favour of the government, prompting him to reverse course and announce that he too would back the prime minister. The government got 235 votes in favor and 70 against in 2 October morning vote in the Senate, and in the afternoon the Chamber of Deputies voted 435 in favor and 162 against. Letta could thus continue his Grand coalition government. He called for another vote on 11 December after Forza Italia pulled out of the coalition after Berlusconi was evicted from parliament.
The growing criticism of the slow pace of Italian economic reform left Letta increasingly isolated. On 13 February 2014, following tensions with his left-wing rival Matteo Renzi, Letta announced he would resign as Prime Minister the following day. The Democratic Party voted heavily in favour of backing Renzi's call for a new government, a "new phase" and a "radical programme" of reform. Minutes after the PD national committee backed the Renzi's proposal by 136 votes to 16, with two abstentions, Palazzo Chigi – the official residence of the prime minister – said Letta would be going to the Quirinale on Friday to tender his resignation to Giorgio Napolitano. In a speech earlier, Renzi had paid tribute to Letta's government, saying the meeting was not intended to put it "on trial". But, without directly proposing himself as the next premier, he said the eurozone's third-largest economy urgently needed "a new phase" and "radical programme" to push through reforms. The motion made clear "the necessity and urgency of opening a new phase with a new executive". Speaking to the party leadership, Renzi had said Italy was "at a crossroads" and faced either holding fresh elections or a new government without a return to the polls. On 14 February 2014 Giorgio Napolitano accepted Letta's resignation from the office of Prime Minister.
Letta is the secretary general of the think tank Agenzia di Ricerche e Legislazione (AREL), founded by Beniamino Andreatta. He himself founded the associations Trecentosessanta and VeDrò. Letta is a member of the European committee of the Trilateral Commission and of the executive committee of the Aspen Institute Italia. In addition, he serves on the Political Sponsorship Committee of the Institut de Prospective Economique du Monde Méditerranéen (IPEMED).
Enrico Letta is the Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) at Sciences Po in Paris.
He is married to Gianna Fregonara and they have three children, Giacomo, Lorenzo and Francesco Letta.
He is known to be fond of listening to Dire Straits and playing Subbuteo. He speaks French and English fluently.
Notes and references