I dare to convey a very personal memory of Franco Frattini (1957-2022), who died of cancer on Christmas Eve, without letting the news of his illness leak out even to himself, considering it inessential for the destinies of the world, but above all because he was ashamed of his own courage, and was horrified even just the idea of exhibiting it and feeling admired for it.
Now I can say it: he was a man of audacity which, in terms of intensity and, at the same time, capacity for dissimulation, was in my experience unparalleled in the political bestiary. This courage came so naturally to him, one thing with his soul, that it seemed banal and very provincial to let any sign of suffering show through: no need to wipe his brow, he preferred to sweat from within.
Here, the face of Frattini that impressed itself on me and I want to propose is precisely the unsuspected and invisible one, immediately ardent under the clean-shaven and almost blue skin. He accepted his task-mission-duty in a simple and extreme way, testifying to the point of submitting his physical and moral body to a stress test like a man sentenced to death, but in such a way that no one understood what kind of weight he was carrying. I realize how this inner portrait of Franco Frattini contrasts with the noble but a little too dapper and tasked decurion image that has been painted of him over the years. Certainly it is tailored to the positions he holds without any apparent wrinkling of the shirt.
The last, the extreme one, was as president of the Council of State, that is, first administrative magistrate of Italy, at only 64 years of age. No one has objected on the merits, nor dared to speak of a political slide, the legendary legal competence of the man being well known, and the almost supernatural linguistic ease in expressing it. Let’s face it: a monster of skill. Classical high school diploma from Giulio Cesare in Rome, law degree at the age of 21, he won the ordinary competition for entry into the judiciary, then that of state lawyer, then for the Council of State. Everything first time et cum laude. The first political idea of him places him on the extreme left. He writes for Il Manifesto, exactly as it is Giulio Tremonti: both, very different in temperament, soon moved ideally to the socialist area, and then to Forza Italia.
In 1994 Berlusconi triumphed with the centre-right. The general secretary of Palazzo Chigi is Andrew Manzellachief bureaucrat, who, however, having “in great disgust” the Knight leaves his post: and it is Frattini, 37 years old, who teaches the first steps to Silvio and Gianni Letta in the elephantine doodles of the government and state machine. Franco is soon appointed general secretary. With the Dini government he became Minister of Public Administration, where – his successor Renato Brunetta recalls – he removed the patina of Soviet ministerial grayness by purchasing Murano chandeliers: light on the administration of the State. Then for five years to the presidency of Copaco (the predecessor of Copasir). Then, I go in a hurry, twice Foreign Minister of the Berlusconi governments. It is he who understands and implements the Pratica di Mare project, the apex of Berlusconi’s intuitions: no one like Frattini for the West and NATO, and at the same time the most capable of gaining the trust of the Kremlin. The treaty of friendship with Libya sees him as the protagonist. He then slips on two occasions.
He stands with NATO – specifically with Napolitano, Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton – and supports the war against Gaddafi. Support Mario Monti in 2013, hoping to be chosen as NATO secretary general. No way. Amen. “Where was I?” he wonders. He goes back to his job as a great, great administrative and sports magistrate. He intervenes as he can, reappearing on the sill of the world, using all his prestige and his wisdom to prevent the traumatic break between the West and Russia. This makes him a very high-profile candidate for the Quirinale, it’s not the season for him, and without emphasis he accepts from Mario Draghi promotion to the top of the State Council. Indi. Illness, work even from the hospital bed, courage, silence, death.
And here is the personal memory. 2004, April 4, assassination of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, killed in Iraq by Islamic terrorists. At Porta a Porta it was I who gave the news of who, among the kidnapped, had been shot down. It could not have been Foreign Minister Frattini, present in the studio, who lent his voice to the terrible bloody message. He asked it was me. They had assured him that the family in Genoa had been informed, so he let me know. It wasn’t true. I too then asked for his resignation, he had turned me into a media gravedigger. They had deceived him: in no way did he want to defend himself. He trusted me completely, and exposed himself by saying, as I had told him, that Quattrocchi “died a hero”.
Red insults for him. He then wanted me as his adviser for religious freedom and against the persecution of Christians. I followed him into terrifying areas. In Iraq he did not abstain – although invited to withdraw – from following a path considered out of control, accompanying me to a Christian church in Baghdad. He had just thundered against the Shiite premier for the denied religious freedom, the same he had done with the Americans who had transformed the parishes into deposits like in the Soviet Union. By plane to Rome, on the Falcon, I was rather worn out, he dreamed of skiing downhill in Greenland. He was a ski instructor, all right, but he wasn’t a fop like the idiots made us believe. He challenged the yetis of the world. He had treasures that don’t make resumes. They are part of the mystery of the person, and cannot be told until after the kilos he has spent with you die.