Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.
air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
name: Rome geographic coordinates: 41 54 N, 12 29 E time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time) daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
chief of state: President Giorgio NAPOLITANO (since 15 May 2006) head of government: Prime Minister (referred to in Italy as the president of the Council of Ministers) Romano PRODI (since 17 May 2006) note - PRODI resigns after no confidence vote in the Senate on 24 January 2008, but retains his office until new prime minister is named; when men named by President NAPOLITANO cannot form a government acceptable to Parliament, NAPOLITANO dissolves parliament and calls for new elections on April 13 cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president elections: president elected by an electoral college consisting of both houses of parliament and 58 regional representatives for a seven-year term (no term limits); election last held 10 May 2006 (next to be held in May 2013); prime minister appointed by the president and confirmed by parliament election results: Giorgio NAPOLITANO elected president on the fourth round of voting; electoral college vote - 543
bicameral Parliament or Parlamento consists of the Senate or Senato della Repubblica (315 seats; members elected by proportional vote with the winning coalition in each region receiving 55% of seats from that region; to serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camera dei Deputati (630 seats; members elected by popular vote with the winning national coalition receiving 54% of chamber seats; to serve five-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 9-10 April 2006 (next to be held 13 April 2008); Chamber of Deputies - last held 9-10 April 2006 (next to be held in May 2011) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 159 (DS 62, DL 39, RC 27, Together with the Union 11, other 20), House of Freedoms 156 (FI 79, AN 41, UDC 21, LEGA 13, other 2); Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 349 (DS and DL 218, RC 41, Rose in the Fist 18, Italy of Values 20, PdCI 16, Greens Federation 16, UDEUR 14, other 6), House of Freedoms 281 (FI 134, AN 72, Union of Christian and Center Democrats 39, LEGA 23, other 13)
Constitutional Court or Corte Costituzionale (composed of 15 judges: one-third appointed by the president, one-third elected by parliament, one-third elected by the ordinary and administrative Supreme Courts)
Center-Left Union Coalition [Romano PRODI]: Ulivo Alliance (including Democrats of the Left or DS [Piero FASSINO] (along with the DL merged into the Democratic Party or PD); Daisy-Democracy is Freedom or DL [Francesco RUTELLI] (along with the DS merged into the Democratic Party or PD)); Rose in the Fist (including Italian Social Democrats or SDI [Enrico BOSELLI]; Italian Radical Party [Emma BONINO]); Together with the Union (including Italian Communist Party or PdCI [Oliviero DILIBERTO]; Green Federation [Alfonso PECORARO SCANIO]; United Consumers); Communist Renewal or RC [Fausto BERTINOTTI]; Italy of Values or IdV [Antonio DI PIETRO]; Union of Democrats for Europe or UDEUR [Clemente MASTELLA]; Republican European Movement or MRE [Luciana SBARBATI] Center-Right Freedom House Coalition [Silvio BERLUSCONI]: Forza Italia or FI [Silvio BERLUSCONI]; National Alliance or AN [Gianfranco FINI]; Union of Christian Democrats and Centrist Democrats or UDC [Pier Ferdinando CASINI]; Northern League or LEGA [Umberto BOSSI]; Christian Democracy (Per la Autonomie) [Gianfranco ROTONDI] other non-allied parties: New Italian Socialist Party or New PSI [Gianni DE MICHELIS]; Italian Republican Party or PRI [Giorgio LA MALFA]; Social Alternative [Alessandra MUSSOLINI]; Social Movement-Tricolor Flame or MSI-Fiamma [Luca ROMAGNOLI]; Social Idea Movement with Rauti or MIS [Pino RAUTI]; South Tyrol People's Party or SVP (German speakers) [Elmar Pichler ROLLE]; Union of Valley Aosta Region or UV [Guido CESAL]
Italian manufacturers and merchants associations (Confindustria, Confcommercio); organized farm groups (Confcoltivatori, Confagricoltura); Roman Catholic Church; three major trade union confederations (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro or CGIL [Guglielmo EPIFANI] which is left wing, Confederazione Italiana dei Sindacati Lavoratori or CISL [Raffaele BONANNO], which is Roman Catholic centrist, and Unione Italiana del Lavoro or UIL [Luigi ANGELETTI] which is lay centrist)
chief of mission: Ambassador Giovanni CASTELLANETA chancery: 3000 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone:  (202) 612-4400 FAX:  (202) 518-2151 consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco consulate(s): Detroit
three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red; similar to the flag of Ireland, which is longer and is green (hoist side), white, and orange; also similar to the flag of the Cote d'Ivoire, which has the colors reversed - orange (hoist side), white, and green; inspired by the French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797
Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions. But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: Italy's official debt remains above 100% of GDP, and the government has found it difficult to bring the budget deficit down to a level that would allow a rapid decrease in that debt. The economy continues to grow by less than the euro-zone average and growth is expected to decelerate from 1.9% in 2006 and 2007 to under 1.5% in 2008 as the euro-zone and world economies slow.
euro (EUR) note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
general assessment: modern, well developed, fast; fully automated telephone, telex, and data services domestic: high-capacity cable and microwave radio relay trunks international: country code - 39; a series of submarine cables provide links to Asia, Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and US; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (with a total of 5 antennas - 3 for Atlantic Ocean and 2 for Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and NA Eutelsat
18-27 year of age for voluntary military service; conscription abolished January 2005; women may serve in any military branch; 10-month service obligation, with a reserve obligation to age 45 (Army and Air Force) or 39 (Navy) (2006)