Francesco Cossiga

Francesco Cossiga
Francesco Cossiga
8th President of Italy
In office
3 July 1985 – 28 April 1992
Prime Minister Bettino Craxi
Amintore Fanfani
Giovanni Goria
Ciriaco De Mita
Giulio Andreotti
Preceded by Alessandro Pertini
Succeeded by Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Prime Minister of Italy
In office
4 August 1979 – 18 October 1980
President Alessandro Pertini
Preceded by Giulio Andreotti
Succeeded by Arnaldo Forlani
President of the Italian Senate
Acting President of the Republic
from 29 June 1985 to 3 July 1985
In office
12 July 1983 – 3 July 1985
Preceded by Vittorino Colombo
Succeeded by Amintore Fanfani
Italian Minister of the Interior
In office
12 February 1976 – 11 May 1978
Prime Minister Aldo Moro
Giulio Andreotti
Preceded by Luigi Gui
Succeeded by Virginio Rognoni
Lifetime Senator
In office
28 April 1992 – 17 August 2010
Constituency Former President
Personal details
Born 26 July 1928(1928-07-26)
Sassari, Sardinia, Italy
Died 17 August 2010(2010-08-17) (aged 82)
Rome, Latium, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Christian Democracy
Spouse(s) Giuseppa Sigurani
Children Anna Maria Cossiga, Giuseppe Cossiga
Religion Roman Catholicism

Francesco Cossiga (26 July 1928 – 17 August 2010)[1] was an Italian politician, the 43rd Prime Minister and the eighth President of the Italian Republic. He was also a professor of constitutional law at the University of Sassari.

Cossiga was born in Sassari in the north of Sardinia.[1] He started his political career during World War II. His name is now usually pronounced Italian pronunciation: [kosˈsiːɡa], but it was originally pronounced Italian pronunciation: [ˈkɔssiɡa], with the stress on the first syllable, meaning "Corsica".[2] He was the cousin of Enrico Berlinguer.[3]


Minister for the Christian-Democracy

He was a minister several times for the Democrazia Cristiana party (DC), notably during his stay at Viminale (Ministry for internal affairs) where he re-structured the Italian police, civil protection and secret services. In 1977, when Cossiga was minister of internal affairs, police squads organized by Cossiga shot against a demonstration in Rome, killing student Giorgiana Masi. Cossiga for many years stated that she was killed by her companions.[4]

He was in-charge during the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro by Red Brigades, and he resigned when Moro was found dead in 1978.[5] According to Italian journalist Enrico Deaglio, Cossiga to justify his lack of action "accused the leaders of CGIL and of the Italian Communist Party to know the location where Moro was detained".[4] Cossiga was also minister of internal affairs when Fascist terrorists bombed Bologna station in 1980. He initially declared that it was a Fascist attack, but he later stated it was a Palestinian transport of weapons which went wrong. He also supported the innocence of Giusva Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, who were later condemned for the bombing and for numerous murders, declaring: "They are good guys and they want me well."[4]

During the early 1980s, Cossiga attacked several times the antimafia judges and spoke in favour of judge Corrado Carnevale, a member of the Corte di Cassazione (Italy's supreme court) who had annulled numerous sentences against mafia leaders and was later tried for these actions.[4]

Cossiga was elected President of the Italian Senate 12 July 1983, a position he held until 24 June 1985, when he became the President of Italy.

Election as President of Italy

Following his resignation as president of the Senate in 1985, Cossiga was elected President of Italy (Head of State). This was the first time a candidate had won following the first ballot (where a majority of over two thirds is necessary).

It was not until his last two years as President that Cossiga began to express some unusual opinions regarding the Italian political system. He opined that the Italian parties, especially the DC (his own party) and Italian Communist Party, had to take into account the deep changes brought about by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.[6]

Cossiga during his Presidency

These statements, soon dubbed "esternazioni", or "mattock blows" (picconate), were considered by many to be inappropriate for a President and, often, beyond his constitutional powers; also, his mental health was doubted and Cossiga had to declare "I am the fake madman who speaks the truth."[6]

Tension developed between Cossiga and the President of the Council of Ministers Giulio Andreotti. This tension emerged when Andreotti revealed the existence of Gladio, a stay-behind organization with the official aim of countering a possible Soviet invasion through sabotage and guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. Cossiga announced his involvement in the establishment of the organization.[7][8] The Democratic Party of the Left (successor to the Communist Party) started the procedure of impeachment (Presidents of Italy can be impeached only for high treason against the State or for an attempt to overthrow the Constitution).[9][10] Although he threatened to prevent the impeachment procedure by dissolving Parliament, the impeachment request was ultimately dismissed.

Cossiga resigned two months before the end of his term, on 25 April 1992.[11]

Life senator

According to the Italian Constitution, after his resignation from the office of President, Cossiga became lifetime senator, joining his predecessors in the upper house of parliament, with whom he also shared the title of President Emeritus of the Italian Republic.

In February 1998, Cossiga created the Unione Democratica per la Repubblica (a political party), declaring it to be politically central. The UDR was a crucial component of the majority that supported the D'Alema government in October 1998, after the fall of the Prodi government which lost a vote of confidence.

Cossiga declared that his support for D'Alema was intended to end the conventional exclusion of the former Communist Party (PCI) leaders from the premiership in Italy.

In 1999 UDR was dissolved and Cossiga returned to his activities as a senator, with competences in the Military Affairs' Commission.[12]

In May 2006 he brought in a bill that would allow the region of South Tyrol to hold a referendum, where the local electorate could decide whether to remain within the Republic of Italy, take independence, or become part of Austria again.[13]

On 27 November 2006, he resigned from his position as a lifetime senator. His resignation was, however, rejected on 31 January 2007 by a vote of the Senate.

Cossiga died on 17 August 2010 because of respiratory problems.

Controversial statements

In 2007, in a statement published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Cossiga commented on the 11 September attacks and on a video attributed to Osama Bin Laden 2001. He wrote that "all of the democratic circles of America and of Europe, especially those of the Italian centre-left, now know well that the disastrous attack was planned and realized by the American CIA and Mossad with the help of the Zionist world to place the blame on Arabic countries and to persuade the Western powers to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan".[14][15] However Cossiga had also stated in 2006 that he sees 9/11 conspiracy theories as impossible and indeed purely ideologically motivated[16], claiming that he was being ironic when he commented on 9/11 – though this did not stop that comment circulating all over the internet.[17]

In the same statement, Cossiga claimed that a video tape circulated by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and containing threats against Silvio Berlusconi was "produced in the studios of Mediaset in Milan" and forwarded to the "Islamist Al-Jazeera television network." The purpose of that video tape (which was actually an audio tape) was to raise "a wave of solidarity to Berlusconi" who was, at the time, facing political difficutlies.[14]

Honours and awards

As President of the Republic, Cossiga was Head (and also Knight Grand Cross with Grand Cordon) of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (from 3 July 1985 to 28 April 1992), Military Order of Italy, Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, Order of Merit for Labour and Order of Vittorio Veneto and Grand Cross of Merit of the Italian Red Cross.

  • Knight Grand Cross, with a gold plaque, decorated the Collar of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George
  • Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
  • Collar of the Order of Merit of Malta (Sovereign Military Order of Malta)
  • Collar of the Order Piano (Vatican City)
  • Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur (France)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of San Marino (Republic of San Marino)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (United Kingdom)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (United Kingdom)
  • Collar of the Order of the Seraphim (Sweden)
  • Collar of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
  • Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland)
  • Collar of the Order of the Liberator (Venezuela)
  • Collar of the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)
  • Collar of the Order of the Sun (Peru)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique (Portugal)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Christ (Portugal)
  • Collar of the Order of the Liberator San Martín (Argentina)
  • Special Class of the Order of the Mohammediya (Morocco)
  • Collar of the Order of Independence (Qatar)
  • Collar of the Order of Merit of Chile
  • Collar of the Order of King Hussein (Jordan)
  • Knight Grand Cross decorated with Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (Belgium)
  • Special Class of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of November 7 (Tunisia)
  • Knight First Class of the Order of the Flag of Hungary
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog (Denmark)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Oak Crown (Luxembourg)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon (Iceland)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of King Tomislav of Croatia ("Senator Francesco Cossiga, former Italian President, for his contribution to the international recognition of the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Croatia and the development of friendly relations between the Republic of Croatia and the Italian Republic. This is particularly evident in a historical moment for Croatia, which is recognized internationally by the European Union countries 15 January 1992, when Francesco Cossiga has taken an important friendly gesture with his official visit on 17 January 1992, the first head of state so to have expressed its support for Croatia." - 3 July 1993)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Egypt)
  • Grand Officer of the Order of the Aztec Eagle (Mexico)
  • Order of Rajah Sikatuna (Philippines)


  1. ^ a b Page at Senate website (Italian).
  2. ^ See
  3. ^ (Italian) Mio cugino Berlinguer: Cossiga racconta un leader (Cossiga talking about Enrico Berlinguer in an interview to Gian Antonio Stella – Corriere della Sera, 10 June 2004)(Italian)
  4. ^ a b c d Deaglio, Enrico (18 August 2010). "La lepre marzolina che attraversò la storia senza pagar dazio". L'Unità. 
  5. ^ Sassoon, Donald (18 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga obituary". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ a b The Washington Post: Veteran Italian politician Cossiga dies
  7. ^ Bloomberg: Francesco Cossiga, Italy's Combative Former President, Dies at Age 82
  8. ^ ADN Kronos: Former president Francesco Cossiga dies at 82
  9. ^ (Italian) Il Sole 24 ore: Occhetto, lo strappo mai ricucito su Gladio
  10. ^ (Italian) La Repubblica: Il PDS vota l'impeachment di Cossiga (4 Dec 1991)
  11. ^ (Italian) La Repubblica: E l'uomo grigio prese il piccone (26 Apr. 1992)
  12. ^ (Italian) Cossiga's activity as a Senator, on the Senate's website
  13. ^ Cossiga, Francesco (8 June 2006). "Riconoscimento del diritto di autodeterminazione al Land Südtyrol – Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano". Disegno di Legge Costituzionale N. 592. Senato della Repubblica XV Legislatura. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "Osama-Berlusconi? "Trappola giornalistica"". Corriere della Sera. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  15. ^ Scherer, Steve; Totaro, Lorenzo (17 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga, Italy's Combative Ex-President, Dies at 82". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 August 2010. [dead link]
  16. ^
  17. ^ Sassoon, Donald (18 August 2010). "Francesco Cossiga obituary". The Guardian (London). 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Italian Minister without portfolio
Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Preceded by
Luigi Gui
Italian Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
Virginio Rognoni
Preceded by
Giulio Andreotti
Prime Minister of Italy
Succeeded by
Arnaldo Forlani
Preceded by
Vittorino Colombo
President of the Italian Senate
Succeeded by
Amintore Fanfani
Preceded by
Sandro Pertini
President of the Italian Republic
Succeeded by
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Italian Senate
Preceded by
Title jointly held

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Lifetime Senator

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Italian Chamber of Deputies
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of Parliament for Sardinia
Legislatures : III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Masayoshi Ohira
Chair of the G8
Succeeded by
Pierre E. Trudeau

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