Head of State President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Head of Government Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini
Area 301,000 km²
Population 57.6 million
Per capita GDP € 24,019 (2001)
GDP growth 1.8% (2001)
Constitution - Domestic politics
Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The head of state is the president, elected for a seven-year term by an electoral college of the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and representatives of regional councils. From the presidential term due to start in 2004, presidents will be directly elected. The president nominates the prime minister and a number of Supreme Court judges but has no executive powers.
Under the 1948 constitution, Italy's legislative power is held by a bicameral parliament comprising the Senate with 315 seats and the Chamber of Deputies with 630 seats. Both houses are elected by a mixed majoritarian and proportional representation system for a maximum of five years.
In parliamentary elections in 2001, a new centre-right coalition (Casa della Liberte) won a convincing victory and formed a government under Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia). This government has launched a comprehensive reform programme, with emphasis on tax reductions, tackling unemployment, reducing the budget deficit and changes in the labour market. Efforts are also being made to upgrade Italy’s international role.
In recent years, the Italian economy has been characterised by relatively low growth. However, Italy has managed to reduce its budget deficit in accordance with the Stability Pact. In 1997, the deficit was 2.7 per cent. In 2001, it had fallen to 1.2 per cent, slightly higher than the 0.8 per cent goal set at the beginning of the year.
Italy's overall economic structure is similar to that of most other advanced OECD economies. The primary sector is relatively small but the service sector, particularly tourism and design, is important to overall economic performance. Tourism is Italy’s third largest source of foreign income. The Italian economy’s main strength has been in manufacturing, particularly small and medium-sized firms specialising in products that require high-quality design and engineering.
The Berlusconi government is essentially continuing Italy’s pro-European line. Italy supports the forthcoming enlargement of the EU with the ten Laeken countries and is in favour of Bulgaria and Romania being offered a clear EU accession perspective (2007).
Italy has been one of the champions of UN Security Council reform and strongly supports the reinforcement of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Membership of NATO will remain the cornerstone of the country’s security and defence policy.