Prodi forms Italy's new government, is sworn in as premier

Center-left leader Romano Prodi was sworn in Wednesday as premier of Italy's 61st postwar government, officially ending the conservative and sometimes rocky rule of Silvio Berlusconi.

Five weeks after his narrow election victory, Prodi submitted a Cabinet list to President Giorgio Napolitano that gave some indication of the new government's priorities: fixing Italy's ailing economy and focussing more on Europe.

Italy's new foreign minister is Massimo D'Alema, a former Communist and former premier. Former European Commissioner Emma Bonino was given the EU affairs ministry.

Prodi also named a respected economist to fix the country's finances.

"It's a team that will last the entire legislature," Prodi vowed. "It is very homogeneous and I hope it will get along well," said Prodi. He added he had "great desire for cohesion and unity in the country."

Prodi's decision to make Tommaso Padoa Schioppa the country's new economy minister highlighted what is possibly the new government's biggest challenge: to revive Italy's ailing economy while cutting its debt and deficit to conform with European monetary union rules.

"I think we can only speak well of Padoa Schioppa," political analyst Franco Venturini said of the politically independent former member of the European Central Bank's executive board. "He is a technocrat who was inserted to reassure everyone. ... He is a fundamental part of Prodi's government."

The stagnant economy and ballooning budget deficit probably cost Berlusconi the election, although his Forza Italia party remains the country's largest and an opposition force to be reckoned with.

The new Cabinet includes another former premier: longtime Socialist Giuliano Amato as the new interior minister, in charge of civilian police forces and intelligence services.

A close Prodi aide, centrist Arturo Parisi, was appointed to the post of defense minister.

The Cabinet was formed after last-minute meetings with party leaders in Prodi's center-left coalition following days of bickering over key posts, reports AP.


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