The legacy of Gianni Agnelli in the 21st century

L’Avvocato 100 years after

When Gianni Agnelli and David Rockefeller founded the Council for the United States and Italy in 1983, the Cold War was not over yet, the Berlin Wall was still standing surrounded by barbed wire and international relations were probably getting worse after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the on-going tensions in Central America and growing distrust between the US and Europe. The US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had their own direct understanding, but there was less chemistry between Washington and Brussels. Many European leaders were skeptical about the liberal president and several Republican advisors were convinced that Europe, the old continent, had now become a competitor rather than an ally.

At that time, in Italy the anti-American sentiment was rooted in certain circles and fought against the renewal of the NATO security balance. Thus, Italy was struggling to exert a solid influence on the European Union, paying the price on both fronts for being too “pro-American” for Brussels, too “European” for Washington.

The historic strategic agreement between Agnelli and Rockefeller brilliantly overturned this impasse: Italy became a bridge between the two sides of the Atlantic with the United States as the ideal partner for Rome’s global aspirations.

It was the Avvocato Agnelli’s dream to modernize Italy, to break its provincialism, to encourage citizens, businesses, intellectuals and politicians towards future frontiers.

As a friend with the democrat John Kennedy and the republican Henry Kissinger, ready to make Fiat USA in New York a center of entrepreneurial and cultural activities, asking Gianluigi Gabetti to act as the group’s ambassador to the States, Gianni Agnelli launched his own elegant direct diplomacy, defending Italian interests around the world, promoting Western values and ideals and recognizing the USA as a front-line ally.

Since then, from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, from Sandro Pertini to Sergio Mattarella, passing through seven American and six Italian presidents, the Council has defended and relaunched the moral legacy of the Avvocato. The free market is the condition under which economic growth guarantees civil progress and poverty reduction, whereas the free debate of ideas, communication, media and relations is the dimension in which open societies can evolve.

An Italian citizen who loved his country, from North to South, a passionate European who had seen the continent reborn after the wars, a sincere friend of the United States and curious about international cultures everywhere, Gianni Agnelli was a man of the 20th century, educated with the values of the Renaissance of the 19th century.

Yet, the Avvocato always loved to foresee the dawn of the 21st century in every step thanks to his dynamic vision of the future and his inexhaustible passion for everything new. In this spirit, and in this lesson, the Council for the United States and Italy remembers its founder Gianni Agnelli, 100 years after his birth.

Franco Bernabè
Chairman, Acciaierie d’Italia
Evelina Christillin
President, Fondazione Museo delle Antichità Egizie
Gianni Riotta
Executive Vice Chairman, The Council for the United States and Italy and Pirelli Visiting Professor in the French and Italian Department at Princeton University
Domenico Siniscalco
Chairman of the Council for the United States and Italy
Marco Tronchetti Provera
Executive Vice Chairman and CEO,Pirelli & Co, and Honorary Co-Chairman, The Council for the United States and Italy
Armando Varricchio
Ambassador of Italy to the US
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