12 April 2024

Climate Litigation reaches Italian Courts

With Giudizio Universale, climate litigation has found its way to Italy. This case has many aspects in common with the general transnational phenomenon, both in terms of the structure and content of the legal arguments used. The case highlights the difficulties that courts face in view of the high social expectations connected to this kind of proceedings.

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04 April 2024

A Limping Militant Democracy

Images of hundreds of men gathering outside the former headquarters of the Italian post-fascist party (Movimento Sociale Italiano – MSI), giving the Roman salute in Acca Larentia (Roma) on the 8th of January 2024, have sparked numerous controversies in Italy. The Roman salute was paired with the Fascist ritual of the “roll call”, whereby a leader calls out the name of a fallen soldier and his comrades shout “presente!”. While one would expect the President of the Senate, facing an incident that stirred political controversy, to reason in more institutional terms rather than strictly legally, La Russa was partially correct in stating that the current Italian legal framework is (still) not sufficiently clear and coherent on the matter.

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02 April 2024

Refoulement As A Crime

Last month, the Italian Court of Cassation upheld the (suspended) sentence of one year’s imprisonment of the shipmaster of the Italian ship Asso28. He was convicted of two offences of abandonment for returning and handing around 100 migrants over to the personnel of a Libyan patrol boat, including some unaccompanied minors and pregnant women, whom he had previously rescued in international waters within the Libyan SAR zone. The case constitutes the first time an individual was held criminally responsible for failing to fulfil the duty of non-refoulement. Until recently, the refoulement duty has only served to exclude the liability of shipmasters who had complied with it whenever they were accused of facilitating irregular immigration. This case indicates the emergence of a new function of the principle, namely that of grounding the criminal liability of those who violate it.

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30 March 2024

As Good as It Gets

Contrasting the constitutional limitations on the freedom to establish political parties in Italy and Germany brings out two quite different conceptions of militant democracy: one is particularistic, retrospective, and provisional – preoccupied with the transition to democracy; the other is universalistic, prospective, and enduring – concerned with the degeneration of democracy. The Portuguese Constitution, true to its eclectic character and multiple influences, steers a seemingly middle course between these polar options.

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06 March 2024

Climate Protests and City Bans

As climate protests are mounting across Italy, there is a corresponding escalation in repressive responses from public authorities. This trend is not unique to Italy but is rather widespread throughout Europe, as evidenced by frequent reports in national newspapers and posts on this blog. What sets Italy apart from other European nations is the spectacular increase in the use of preventive measures by the public security administration.

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29 February 2024
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Pushing Back

The CJEU has pending before it a crucial case on the criminalisation of seeking asylum and assistance to those seeking protection. At this critical juncture, this blog post highlights a sample of important decisions in which courts, giving effect to constitutional and international legal principles, set legal limits on this form of criminalisation. These cases reflect not only the appropriate legal limits, but also acknowledge the character of irregular migration and smuggling. Rather than framing individuals as  dangerous illegal migrants and exploitative smugglers, they reassert the humanity of both those in search of refuge and opportunity, and those that assist them.

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No Benefit

On January 18, 2024, the German federal parliament (Bundestag) passed the controversial Repatriation Improvement Act which de facto criminalises humanitarian support for entry by land as well as entry of minors by sea, land, and air. The German provision resembles both in wording and substance Article 12 of the Italian Consolidated Immigration Act (TUI) whose compatibility with EU law the CJEU is set to rule on, following a preliminary reference procedure initiated in July 2023. While the effect of a pending referral is uncertain, in the current case, the German government should have suspended its legislative process.

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15 February 2024
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“Rented Uterus” as a Universal Crime

The principle of universal jurisdiction (UJ) has traditionally been grounded in the idea of a collective response to the most heinous crimes on a global scale. Italy, a country that currently lacks universal jurisdiction for international crimes, is amid deliberations on a proposed bill advocating for the use of universal jurisdiction in cases of surrogacy. This analysis contends that the underlying political motive behind this bill is to curb all forms of same-sex parenthood, inadvertently resulting in a criminal law framework that would specifically impact male-gay couples. Secondly, it draws a parallel with “memory law”, illustrating how legal mechanisms initially established in the enthusiasm of the ‘90s are now being repurposed as instruments for divisive political agendas.

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28 November 2023

Prize and Premiership

Since the beginning of November, Italy has been discussing a constitutional reform that aims to radically change the Italian governmental system. The bill provides that the Prime Minister (more correctly: the President of the Council of Ministers) is elected by universal suffrage in a popular vote concurrent with the Chamber of Deputies and Senate elections. This move is often referred to in journalism as ‘Premiership’ (Premierato). n this post, I would like to focus less on the characteristics of the alleged ‘Premiership’ and more on the attempt to incorporate detailed electoral rules into the constitution. First, a brief history of the ‘majority prize’ will help the reader to better understand the context in which this reform was born. This will be followed by a critique of the proposal to enshrine the ‘majority prize’ in the constitution. I argue that, as currently drafted, the reform bill risks leading to an unconstitutional constitutional amendment.

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16 November 2023

Paving the Way to Autocracy?

On November 3, 2023, the Italian Council of Ministers approved a Bill to amend the Constitution, encapsulating what Giorgia Meloni’s Cabinet advertises as a measure to enhance executive stability and streamline policy implementation for medium to long-term objectives. The real goal appears to be cementing the Prime Minister’s grip on power after general elections, as evidenced by the intention to enshrine the majority bonus in the Constitution. Yet, from a constitutional law perspective, the majority bonus raises a fundamental issue related to how the Italian Constitutional Court interprets the eternity clause in the Constitution.

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15 November 2023

Between Recalibration and Distortion

In its current form, the project to change the form of government that the Italian government headed by Ms Giorgia Meloni is preparing to present to the Senate seems difficult to accept. The project claims to address the issue of unstable and short-term cabinets in Italy (65 in 75 years, one every 12 months from 1948 through 1994 when a new electoral law was applied; still one every 21 months thereafter). Unfortunately, it is both poorly drafted and contains contradictions that make it not only impracticable but of dubious functionality with respect to the very objectives it proposes to achieve. However, as it has been decades since the problem the draft says it wants to tackle has been acknowledged, I shall assume its proponents' good intentions and suugest how the text could be improved. Below I briefly describe the project, trace its distant and recent origins, indicate what it is lacking and how it should be changed.

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14 November 2023

Offshoring Asylum the Italian Way

On 6 November 2023, the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama announced the signing of the Agreement for Strengthening of Collaboration in the Field of Migration. The agreement proposes a relocation of asylum seekers who are rescued at sea by Italian vessels to two centres that would be built in Albania and could host up to 3’000 people. This is part of a broader trend whereby European governments seek to move asylum procedures outside of their territory. At the same time, the agreement contains some innovations compared to previous proposals. Indeed, this move has been hailed as a “model and example for other collaboration agreements of this kind” by the Italian Prime Minister. This article contends that this is unlikely to be the case: the legality and feasibility of offshoring asylum procedures remain dubious at best.

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13 November 2023

Looking at Berlin, Ending up on Capitol Hill

On 3 November 2023, the Italian Council of Ministers approved a constitutional reform bill to introduce the direct election of the Prime Minister in Italy. The reform would grant the Prime Minister significantly broader powers than those currently outlined in the Constitution. The proposal is now set to be evaluated by the Italian Parliament, and possibly submitted to a popular referendum if it is not approved by two-thirds of the members of both chambers. While it claims to ensure the continuity of governments – a known weak point of the Italian political system - it undermines the very foundation of parliamentary representation: the party system. Breathing the spirit of plebiscitary populism, this misguided reform, while seemingly looking towards Berlin for inspiration, risks in a worst-case scenario creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Capitol Hill on a fateful day a few years ago.

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27 October 2023
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Turning the Exception into the Rule

In January 2023, Italy’s new government adopted a reform that heavily curtailed immigrant rights to speed up return procedures. Between September and October, several judgments issued by the Catania Tribunal declared the reform in violation of EU law. The judgments led to backlash, with PM Meloni and other members of the government accusing them of being politically motivated. While such political attacks on judges must always be condemned, they are particularly unwarranted given that the Catania Tribunal’s judges were correct in finding the new Italian border procedures incompatible with EU law.

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13 October 2023
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Food Culture and the Far-Right

Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es. Brillat-Savarin’s words describe how what we eat and how we prepare it forms part of our identity. The Bolognese tortellini, the Swabian Spätzle and the Polish Łazanki are very much different from one another. What they have in common, however, is that they do not represent merely a dish, but an essential part of regional heritages. Under the nationalist slogan of 'food sovereignty', the Italian government presents itself as the protector of Italian culinary identity with a ban on cultivated meat. From an EU law perspective, the ban is a largely ineffective ‘talk show law’. Nevertheless, it puts on the table the politics underlying food regulation and the room left for national differentiation within harmonised areas of the internal market.

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23 September 2023

The Political Process in Search of a Judge

It must be acknowledged: in Italy, a judgment such as that delivered by the German Federal Constitutional Court on 24 January 2023 on party financing is currently constitutional science fiction. The Italian constitutional judges have never theorised, unlike their German colleagues, the need for closer scrutiny in certain matters where a ‘conflict of interest’ of the legislature can be discerned. This also partly reflects a different understanding of their own role within the constitutional system.

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01 June 2023

The Leopard Paradox?

In early May, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hosted a roundtable to discuss institutional reforms designed to improve “the stability of governments and legislatures, and respect for citizens’ votes at the ballot box.” A central campaign promise of hers, the reforms are meant to address Italians’ exacerbating distrust of political institutions, rooted in the fact that Italy’s administrations are among the most short-lived in Europe. This adds to its comparatively low levels of ‘clarity of responsibility’. Three options emerged from the discussion. I will briefly discuss the potential and challenges of each option.

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14 April 2023

Attention Is All You Need

Das Verbot ChatGPTs durch die italienische Datenschutzbehörde bietet Gelegenheit einen Klassiker neu aufzulegen: Eine bahnbrechende, Technologie aus dem Silicon Valley zerschellt am harten Beton des Brüsseler Datenschutzregimes. Während einige technikkritische Stimmen laut applaudieren, prügeln andere auf das vermeintlich innovationsfeindliche Datenschutzrecht ein. Doch gibt ChatGPT tatsächlich Anlass für derart fundamentale datenschutzrechtliche Bedenken im Hinblick auf generative KIs?

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07 April 2023

Squaring the Circle

The Italian Data Protection Authority banned ChatGPT for violating EU data protection law. As training and operating large language models like ChatGPT requires massive amounts of (personal) data, AI's future in Europe, to an extent, hinges upon the GDPR.

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13 March 2023

The New Populism is Responsible for the Massacres in the Mediterranean

The tragedy of the 73 people left to drown, without help, a few meters away from the beach near Cutro and the Italian government's pathetic attempts at justification for their inaction forcefully raise again the ‘migrants question’.

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07 March 2023