ROME (Reuters) – Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani was elected on Saturday to head Forza Italia, the conservative party founded 29 years ago by Silvio Berlusconi, who died last month.

Antonio Tajani, aged 69, was unanimously appointed by the national council of Forza Italia, a formation which belongs to the government coalition but is no longer the dominant power of the Italian right.

Former European Commissioner in Brussels and President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani does not enjoy in Italy the notoriety or the popularity of Silvio Berlusconi, businessman and President of the Council three times.

“I am receiving an almost impossible inheritance,” said the new leader of Forza Italia before the local, national and European elected representatives of his party gathered in Rome.

“It’s not easy to lead a political movement that had Silvio Berlusconi as leader for almost 30 years,” he added, in front of a huge portrait of his predecessor.

Antonio Tajani began to be an activist in a small monarchist formation in the 1980s before joining Forza Italia when it was created in 1994 and becoming Silvio Berlusconi’s spokesperson when the latter took the head of government that same year.

(Written by Gavin Jones, Bertrand Boucey)

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