Alcide De Gasperi (3 April 1881 – 19 August 1954) was an Italian statesman and politician. He is considered to be one of the Founding fathers of the European Union, along with the Frenchman Robert Schuman and the German Konrad Adenauer.
He studied philosophy and literature in Vienna, where he played an important role in the inception of the Christian student movement. The young De Gasperi especially worked for the establishment of an Italian Faculty of Legal science (an important issue for Trentino students), for which he was briefly detained. In 1905 he began to work as editor of the newspaper Il Trentino, and after a short time he became its editor. In his newspaper he often took positions in favor of a cultural autonomy for Welschtirol and in defense of Italian culture in Trentino, in contrast to the Germanisation plans of the German radical nationalists in Tyrol. However, he never questioned whether or not Trentino shoud belong to Austria–Hungary and claimed that, in the case of a referendum, 90% of Trentino would choose the emperor. In 1911 he became a Member of Parliament in the Austrian Reichsrat. His home region was transferred to Italy after the First World War. In 1919 he was one of the founders, with Don Luigi Sturzo, of the Italian Popular Party, or Partito Popolare; starting in 1921 he was an MP for the party. He later became party leader and Secretary-General.
De Gasperi served a 16-month jail sentence as an anti-fascist. After his release in 1931 he worked in the library of the Vatican; there, in 1943, during the Second World War, he organized the establishment of the first (and at the time, illegal) Christian Democracy party, or Democrazia Cristiana, drawing upon the ideology of the Popular Party. From 1945 to 1953 he was the prime minister of eight successive Christian Democratic governments. His eight-year rule remains a landmark of political longevity for one leader in modern Italian politics.
In 1946, when Italy became a Republic, he was elected Capo Provvisorio dello Stato (Provisional Head of State) Pro-Tempore and Regnante Reggente. He is the only man to have become President of the Council, Republic and Regent.
In 1952 he received the Karlspreis (engl.: International Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen), an award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace. That same year he vetoed a coalition with former fascists and monarchists for the city of Rome elections advocated by some ecclesiastical circles (the so-called operazione Sturzo); Democrazia Cristiana won, but the governmental block lost some 11%. Subsequently, Pope Pius XII denied him audience, which he accepted as a Catholic but protesting as Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In that famous letter, he wrote to the Pope: «As a christian I accept the humiliation, although I don't know how justify it; but as President of the Council (Prime minister) and Foreign Minister, the dignity and authority which I represent and of whom I cannot deprive myself even in my private relationships, imposes me to express my amazement».