Nominee for Italian PM caught in CV controversy
Newspapers report New York University had no record of Giuseppe Conte ever attending
Giuseppe Conte: as well as his New York University claims he also said he enhanced his legal studies at Yale University in New Haven, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the Sorbonne in Paris and Cambridge University in the UK
The nomination of Giuseppe Conte to serve as prime minister of the incoming populist government of Italy was hit by doubts after questions arose about the accuracy of the law professor’s academic résumé.
Mr Conte, a virtually unknown law professor in Florence who has served as a personal attorney to Luigi Di Maio, the head of the Five Star Movement (M5S), has stated on his public CV that he “refined” his legal studies at New York University in 2008 and 2009.
But on Tuesday Italy’s two leading newspapers, La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, seized on a report in the New York Times that said New York University had no record of Mr Conte ever attending as either a student or a professor.
He also stated that he had enhanced his legal studies at Yale University in New Haven, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Cambridge University in the UK in 2001. Citing confidentiality rules, Cambridge said it could not immediately confirm or deny whether Mr Conte attended the university.
The International Kultur Institut in Vienna is also named on the résumé, where Mr Conte said he had worked on his legal studies. But the Kultur Institut is a language school, according to an online profile.
The M5S defended Mr Conte on Tuesday, and criticised the foreign and Italian press for suggesting he had lied about academic credentials that Mr Conte never claimed he had.
“In his curriculum Giuseppe Conte wrote with clarity that he perfected and updated his studies at New York University. But he did not cite courses or say he completed a master’s at the university,” said a statement by M5S.
The party added: “Conte, like any scholar, has studied abroad, enriched his knowledge, and perfected his legal English. For a professor of his level, the opposite would have been strange. He did it and rightly wrote it in the curriculum, but paradoxically this is not good now and it even becomes a fault. It is the umpteenth confirmation that they [the press] are so afraid of this government of change.”
Brussels was concerned about Mr Conte’s nomination, following weeks of intense negotiations between the Five Star Movement and the League, the two parties that emerged out of the March 4th election with the most votes. Both Matteo Salvini, the bombastic head of the League, and Mr Di Maio were frequent critics of previous prime ministers who had not been directly elected following national elections, including Matteo Renzi.
While Mr Renzi served as the head of the Democratic party and had experience as the mayor of Florence, Mr Conte is not a politician and has never been seen as a player within the anti-establishment M5S.
Mr Salvini and Mr Di Maio formally put his name forward to serve as prime minister on Monday evening, in a meeting with Italian president Sergio Mattarella, who must formally approve the choice. Mr Mattarella is due to meet the two speakers in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, and has not yet called for a meeting with Mr Conte.
In Rome, reports about the questions about Mr Conte’s CV were met with snickering by rivals in the Democratic party, including unproved and unsubstantiated speculation by the deputy head of the party about whether other aspects of Mr Conte’s CV had been fabricated. – Guardian