Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, a widely respected former Italian president who played a crucial role in Italy’s adoption of the euro, has died at the age of 95, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced Friday.
Ciampi, who also served briefly as prime minister in a 1993-94 caretaker government of technocrats, was president from 1999-2006.
He was so popular that he was widely urged to serve a second term — a proposal he declined on the grounds of his advanced age.
Ciampi spent 14 years as governor of the Bank of Italy and later served as a treasury minister, a role in which he was the principal architect of Italy’s adoption of the euro as one of the founder members of the single currency.
He “served Italy with passion,” Renzi wrote on Twitter. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni hailed “a great Italian statesman,” and other tributes poured in from across the political spectrum.
A career economist, Ciampi was politically on the centre-left although he was not officially aligned to any party for the bulk of his career.
He took over as prime minister at a time when Italy was reeling from the enormous “mani pulite” (clean hands) corruption scandal.
As president, a largely ceremonial role in Italy, he was credited with being a restraining influence on Silvio Berlusconi when the controversial media tycoon was prime minister.
Ciampi leaves a widow, Franca, to whom he was married for 70 years, and two children. Media reports said he had died after spending several weeks in a Rome hospital.