On 1 July 2003, Italy assumed for the seventh time the presidency of

the European Union. The previous Italian presidency was held during

the first semester of 1996 under the leadership of Romano Prodi. For

various reasons, which will be explored in the first section of this

chapter, the role of the presidency of the EU has been of great political

importance not only in Europe but also on domestic and international

levels. Every member state has, in its own history, experienced

an EU presidency that was more or less successful and that helped

build its European reputation. Beyond producing effective reports, the

previous six Italian presidencies contributed to the construction of the

image of a country that, although politically weak, identified strongly

with the values and objectives of European integration. The 1996

presidency, marked by salient issues such as the start of intergovernmental

negotiations that led to the Treaty of Amsterdam, growth and

employment, and preparation for monetary union, had even managed

to increase Italy’s European credibility.