ROME — Italy’s new Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, could scarcely be less like his frenetic forerunner, Matteo Renzi. In place of a provincial toughie known as “The Demolition Man,” Italy has acquired an affable Roman aristocrat with a preference for compromise. His inaugural speech to parliament this past December was memorable largely for its dullness. Italy’s La Stampa newspaper called him “Paolo the cold,” because of his business-like nature, which is the complete opposite of former Prime Minister Renzi.
Gentiloni, a member of the Democratic Party, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from October 2014 until December 2016, when President Sergio Mattarella asked him to form a new government. Previously he was Minister of Communications from 2006 to 2008, during the second government of Romano Prodi.
Prime Minister Gentiloni is a descendent of Count Gentiloni Silveri and is related to the Italian politician Vincenzo Ottorino Gentiloni, leader of the conservative Catholic Electoral Union and a key ally of the longtime Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti. He has the title of Nobile of Filottrano, Nobile of Cingoli and Nobile of Macerata.
Born in Rome, he attended the Classical Lyceum Torquato Tasso in the city and graduated in political sciences at the
La Sapienza University; Gentiloni is a professional journalist.
Gentiloni was a member of Movimento Studentesco, an extreme left-wing youth organization led by Mario Capanna; when Capanna founded the Proletarian Democracy party, Gentiloni did not follow him, and joined the Workers’ Movement for Socialism. During those years he became a close friend of Chicco Testa who helped Gentiloni to become director of La Nuova Ecologia, the official newspaper of Legambiente. As director of this ecologist newspaper he met the young leader of Federation of the Greens, Francesco Rutelli.
In 1993 he became Rutelli’s spokesman during his campaign to become Mayor of Rome; after the election, which saw a strong victory of Rutelli against the right-wing coalition led by Gianfranco Fini, Gentiloni was appointed Jubilee and Tourism Councilor in the Rome City Council.
In the 2001 general election, Gentiloni was elected as a Member of Parliament and started his national political career.
In 2002 he was a founding member of the The Daisy party, being the party’s communications spokesman for five years.
From 2005 until 2006, he was Chairman of the Broadcasting Services Watchdog Committee; the committee oversees the activity of state broadcaster RAI, which is publicly funded.
He was re-elected in the 2006 election as a member of The Olive Tree, the political coalition led by the Bolognese economist Romano Prodi. After the centre-left’s victory, Gentiloni served as Minister for Communications in Prodi’s second government from 2006 until 2008.
He was one of the 45 members of the national founding committee of the Democratic Party in 2007, formed by the union of the democratic socialists Democrats of the Left and the Christian leftist The Daisy.
Gentiloni was re-elected in the 2008 general election, which saw the victory of the conservative coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi.
In April 2013 he ran in the primary election to select the center-left candidate for Mayor of Rome, placing third after Ignazio Marino, who became Mayor, and the journalist David Sassoli.
Gentiloni was elected again to the Chamber of Deputies in the 2013 general election, as part of the centre-left coalition Italy. Common Good led by Pier Luigi Bersani, Secretary of the PD.
In 2013, after Bersani’s resignation as Secretary, Gentiloni supported the Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, in the Democratic Party leadership election.
On Oct. 31, 2014, Gentiloni was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; Gentiloni succeeded Federica Mogherini, who became High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He took office two months before Italy’s rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union ended in December 2014.
At the time of his appointment, Gentiloni had not been mentioned in political circles as a candidate. Renzi had reportedly wanted to replace Mogherini with another woman, to preserve gender parity in his 16-member cabinet. Also, Gentiloni was not known as a specialist in international diplomacy.
On Feb. 15, 2015, during an interview on Italian Cable News Sky TG24, Gentiloni stated that “if needed, Italy will be ready to fight in Libya against the Islamic State, because the Italian government cannot accept the idea that there is an active terrorist threat only a few hours from Italy by boat.” The following day Gentiloni was threatened by ISIL, which accused him of being a crusader, minister of an enemy country.
On July 11, 2015, a car bomb exploded outside the Italian consulate in the Egyptian capital Cairo resulting in at least one death and four people injured; responsibility was claimed by the Islamic State. On the same day Gentiloni stated that “Italy will be not intimidated” and would continue the fight against terrorism.
In December 2015, Gentiloni hosted a peace conference in Rome with the representatives from both governments
of Libya involved in the civil war, but also from the United Nations, the United States and Russia.
As Foreign Minister, Gentiloni had to confront various abductions of Italian citizens. In January 2015, he negotiated the release of Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli after they had been held hostage by Syrian terrorists for 168 days. Another high-profile case was the murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian Cambridge University graduate student killed in Cairo following his abduction on January 25, 2016; Regeni was a Ph.D. student researching Egypt’s independent trade unions.
At the 2016 United Nations Security Council election, Gentiloni and his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders agreed on splitting a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council after the United Nations General Assembly was deadlocked on whether to choose Italy or the Netherlands following five rounds of voting for the last remaining 2017-18 seat.
He led a coalition government supported by his own Democratic Party and the Christian democratic Popular Area, composed by the New Centre-Right and the Centrists for Italy. This was the same majority which supported Renzi’s government for almost three years.
On Dec. 7, 2016, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation, following the rejection of his proposals to overhaul the Italian Senate in the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum. A few days later, on Dec. 11, 2016, Gentiloni was asked by President Mattarella to form a new government. On the following day Gentiloni was officially sworn in as the new head of the government.
He led a coalition government supported by his own Democratic Party and the Christian democratic Popular Area, composed by the New Centre-Right and the Centrists for Italy. This was the same majority which supported Renzi’s government for almost three years. On Dec. 13 his cabinet won the confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies. On the following day the government won the confidence vote also in the Senate of the Republic, with 169 votes against 99.
On Jan. 10 2017, after an official trip in Paris to met President François Hollande, Gentiloni suffered an obstructed coronary artery and he was subjected to an emergency angioplasty. On the following day Gentiloni tweeted that he felt well and would be back at work soon.
At this writing, Prime Minister Gentiloni has fully recovered and is fulfilling the duties of his office.