The Italian Constitutional Court Opens Up to Hear the Voice of Civil Society

On January 8 2020, the Italian Constitutional Court gave civil society a voice on the issues discussed before it. The Court amended the regulations governing the conduct of proceedings before it and puts itself in a position where it is able take account of expert opinions as well as civil society stakeholders.

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Doch noch ein Verfassungs­referendum in Italien

Die Verkleinerung des italienischen Parlaments wurde im vergangen Oktober beschlossen, jedoch haben sich knapp vor Ablauf der Frist genügend Parlamentarier zusammengeschlossen, um die Entscheidung doch dem Wahlvolk durch ein Verfassungsreferendum zu überlassen. Die traditionelle Scheu der italienischen Wähler vor Verfassungsänderungen dürfte diesmal durch eine Annahme dieses „Reförmchens“ höchstwahrscheinlich überwunden werden. Nichtdestotrotz bestätigt das Vorgehen die Richtigkeit einer Verfassungsbestimmung, die für konstitutionelle Novellierungen einen breiten Konsens vorsieht, damit die Verfassung nicht Spielball der Tagespolitik wird.

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Shying Away from Strasbourg

Last week, the Italian Constitutional Court published its reasoning on a judgment regarding the so-called ergastolo ostativo (life sentence without parole). The challenged provision excludes persons convicted of serious crimes – primarily mafia-type – from a series of benefits (for example, permits and conditional release) in the event that they do not want to collaborate with the authorities. Italy’s Constitutional Court now held that this provision is not in line with the constitution but missed a chance to give full effect to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Constitution Before Administration

On 5 December 2019, Italy’s Constitutional Court nullified regional legislation which made it extremely difficult for religious minority groups to set up places of worship. The provisions in question vested the administrative authorities with nearly unfettered discretion in deciding on the approval of applications. The Constitutional Court has now made clear that the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion cannot be circumvented by administrative procedures.

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Menschenrechte im Mittelmeer

Was bedeutet es Rechte zu haben? Diese Frage bekommt drängende Relevanz, wenn es um die Reichweite menschenrechtlicher Verantwortung geht, so im Fall S.S. und andere gegen Italien, der vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte anhängig ist. Der EGMR hat zu entscheiden, inwiefern die Unterstützung der libyschen Küstenwache und Koordination von Rettungsaktionen eine Verantwortung Italiens nach der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention auslöst.

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The Erosion of Italian Regionalism

Elections in the small, peaceful, politically stable region of Umbria in central Italy normally go rather unnoticed. This didn’t change when the direct election of regional presidents was introduced in 1995, making Italy the only European country with a presidential system at regional level. The stunning victory of the right not only brought Umbria into the spotlight of national politics but also cast light on the erosion of regionalism in Italy.

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Es hat viel gedonnert, aber kaum geregnet

Mit dem Beschluss der Abgeordnetenkammer vom 8. Oktober 2019 hat das italienische Parlament entschieden, sich selbst um ein gutes Drittel der Sitze zu verkleinern. Aus 945 Parlamentariern sollen künftig 600 werden. Obwohl die von der Fünf-Sterne-Bewegung angestrebte Reform in der italienischen Verfassungsdebatte nicht neu ist, beschränkt sie sich auf eine rechnerische Verkleinerung, ohne Rolle und Kompetenzen der Volksvertretung in der Gegenwart ernsthaft zu hinterfragen.

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“Constitutional Paternalism” and the Inability to Legislate

On 25 September 2019, the Italian Constitutional Court (ICC) has made clear that assisted suicide is not punishable under specific conditions. The judgment came one year after the ICC had ordered the Italian Parliament to legislate on the matter – which it did not do. The entire story is indicative of the inability of Parliaments to respond to social demands as well as the current trend of high courts to act as shepherds of parliaments rather than as guardians of the constitution.

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Italia Viva, Party System Reform Morta

Until a decade ago or even less, Italian politics appeared a matter of its own political idiosyncrasies and was dismissed as a peculiar case which is cause more for an amused smile but serious political analysis. This is not the case anymore. The sad truth is that parliamentary regimes based on a functioning majority in Parliament do not seem to be able to deliver sufficiently stable and effective governments these days.

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Resentment, Populism and Political Strategies in Italy

After Matteo Salvini announced his plan of holding snap elections, the former Italian prime minister (Presidente del Consiglio), Matteo Renzi launched the idea to postpone elections by forming a transistional government supported by the Partito democratico and the MoVimento 5 stelle, amongst others. Renzi knows that, according to the polls, Salvini’s political party (the Lega) could win the elections and form a government with Fratelli d’Italia, a post-fascist and still far-right party or with Forza Italia, the party created by Silvio Berlusconi. But would this move prevent a populist government?

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