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Emilio Colombo


Further to Rupert Cornwell's obituary of Emilio Colombo (4 July), early in 1976 as prime minister of Italy – flanked by his friend Aldo Moro, then foreign secretary and soon to be brutally murdered by terrorists – Colombo came to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to beg us to send a delegation to the indirectly elected European Parliament, writes Tam Dalyell. Later, as president of that body, he developed excellent relations with the leader of the British Labour delegation, the former foreign secretary Michael Stewart, and with James Scott-Hopkins, who led the Conservatives.

In January 1978 I was summoned to Colombo's office in Strasbourg. "Winnie Ewing [MP and MEP], alias Madame Ecosse, demanded to see me to tell me about the Scottish Nationalists, so I suppose I should see you to hear the other side of the story." He listened – Colombo was a very good listener – and after I had concluded my diatribe he sighed resignedly, "I am from unwealthy southern Italy. What would we do if rich Lombardy were to form a separate state?" Colombo made it clear that as far as he was concerned it was wholly unacceptable that one part of an existing EEC state should hive off and then expect to be welcomed as a separate entity in Brussels.