New Italian President Sworn In
May. 18, 1999
ROME (AP) _ Carlo Azeglio Ciampi took office Tuesday as Italy's 10th president and urged the European Union to work for a diplomatic resolution to the Kosovo crisis.
However, during a 30-minute speech to Parliament, he said NATO's nearly 2-month-old air campaign against Yugoslavia was necessary.
``Every flash point of war in the continent is a wound in the body of Europe and to its values,'' he said.
``A lasting peace can be reached only by expanding the borders of the (European) Union,'' said Ciampi, a longtime advocate of European integration.
Ciampi, who has served as premier and as governor of Italy's central bank, was picked as president Thursday. In a rare show of political unity, the political independent won support from both the center-left governing coalition and the center-right opposition and was elected on the first ballot by lawmakers and regional representatives.
It took 10 days and 16 rounds of balloting in 1992 to elect the previous president, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.
Italy's presidency is largely a ceremonial post, but it does wield some important powers. The president serves as a kind of referee in political crises by deciding whether to dissolve parliament and call elections, and by designating candidates to form governments.
The term lasts seven years, but if proposed constitutional reforms are passed _ including one that would make the presidency determined by a popular vote _ Ciampi is expected to resign before his term expires.
Ciampi, 78, is highly respected abroad. He is widely credited with getting Italy in shape for the European single currency _ a goal achieved in May 1998.