Romano Prodi; 'I Am Not Overconfident'
Byline: Christopher Dickey and Jacopo Barigazzi
Romano Prodi is ebullient, and for good reason. The former Italian prime minister, who also served as president of the European Commission, is riding the momentum from a special primary election he organized last month to unify the center-left opposition against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Polls suggest he'll likely win national elections scheduled for April 9. The 66-year-old former economics professor recently spoke to NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey and Jacopo Barigazzi. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: You are now the leading opposition politician in Italy. If you become prime minister, what does that mean for Europe, the United States and the rest of the world? PRODI: I am not a newcomer, you know, so I want to be judged for what I did when I was prime minister last time in Italy and president of the European Commission for more than five years. I had lengthy experience cooperating with two American administrations. We really worked side by side. There was simply one division, you know: Iraq.
That was a big one.
I thought that the Iraqi war was absolutely damaging our interests and world interests and would become a nightmare. And now I don't want to say I was right, but let us simply put the real problem on the table.
Berlusconi is talking about bringing troops home. Will there still be Italian troops in Iraq a year from now?
If I win, then we shall decide an agenda for withdrawing the troops. It will be decided next spring, because maybe we won't find any troops by the time we have an election... Certainly I shall not make any coup de theatre as was done by the Spanish.
Do you think Europe would be more united if you were prime minister?
Yes. To play with Brussels against Washington is silly, to play with Washington against Brussels is silly. I think Berlusconi has tried to play the second kind of game, Washington against Brussels, and the result is that Italy is out of any game.
At the most fundamental level, do Italians want to be part of Europe anymore?
In that respect, Italy is like Spain. In our mind there's a correlation between development, modernity and Europe. So Europe in the minds of most Italians has a positive meaning.
But one of the things people say here in Italy is, "Our economic problems come from the euro. Prodi is the euro." Do you see the euro as a political burden for you?
No. I see it as an asset. Absolutely. I am not joking. …