Emilio Colombo, politician in Italy nearly five decades

Prime Minister Emilio Colombo visited President Nixon.
George Tames/New York Times/file 1971
Prime Minister Emilio Colombo visited President Nixon.

WASHINGTON — Emilio Colombo, a stalwart Italian politician who held top government positions for nearly five decades and was prime minister in the early 1970s, died June 24 in Rome. He was 93.

The Italian news agency ANSA did not give a cause.

Mr. Colombo ranked among the prominent leaders of the Christian Democrats, the party that dominated Italian politics for decades after the fall of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.


Called the ‘‘lay cardinal’’ for his religious fervor and political savvy, Mr. Colombo was elected to Parliament in his 20s and reportedly was the last surviving member of the constituent assembly that abolished the Italian monarchy after World War II and reframed the nation.

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He steadily rose through the party ranks and headed the ministries of agriculture, foreign trade, industry, and treasury before becoming prime minister in 1970. His was the 32d government to be formed since the end of the war.

In 1972, his government fell apart when the Republican Party withdrew its support. Mr. Colombo was succeeded by Giulio Andreotti and remained in government, serving in various Cabinet-level positions, including foreign minister.

He supported diplomatic relations with China and devoted particular attention to strengthening his country’s relationship with the United States.

A decade ago, Mr. Colombo was named a senator for life.


He made perhaps his greatest impact on Italy’s economy, helping the country emerge from postwar devastation and become a major world player.

Mr. Colombo was often forced to confront the problem of inflation. He supported radical austerity measures such as tax increases and taxes on luxury items, arguing that the alternative would be more painful. ‘‘If there were not the courage for unpopular measures at this moment, we could expect consequences that would be even more serious,’’ he said in 1974.

According to an account in Time magazine, Mr. Colombo’s political potential was obvious. In 1946, a senior Italian politician was listening to the young star speak before a constituent assembly and remarked, ‘‘Now there is a Colombo that will fly.’’

‘‘Colombo’’ is the Italian word for dove.