The national minority examined in this case is that of the German-speaking population in the province of South Tyrol (formally referred to as Bolzano/Bozen or Alto Adige/Südtirol), which is part of the region of Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol in northern Italy. The German-speaking community, with a population of about 310,000, forms the majority of the province, The French-speaking minority of Valle d'Aosta, in the northwest of Italy, counts only about 90,000 inhabitants. It is sometimes mentioned but is not the focus of this section.
1. FEDERAL OR QUASI-FEDERAL TERRITORIAL AUTONOMY
- Italy has twenty regions, five of which (including Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol and Valle d'Aosta/Vallee d'Aoste) have ‘special autonomous status’, which gives them varying degrees of legislative, administrative and financial autonomy beyond the other regions. According to the constitution, the republic is committed to the promotion of local autonomies.
- The 1946 ‘Gruber–De Gasperi Agreement’ between Italy and Austria promised equal rights for South Tyrol’s German-speakers, safeguards for the German-speaking character of the population, autonomous legislative and executive powers, linguistic group proportionality in the public service, mother-tongue education, and the equal status of the German and Italian languages. Italy characterised the 1948 creation of the special Autonomous Region of Trentino–Alto Adige as the implementation of the Agreement, but 71.5 per cent of the regional population were Italian-speakers, and the German-speakers were easily outvoted on many decisions that directly affected them.
- The Autonomy Statute was revised in 1972 to devolve most of the region’s powers to its two constitutive provinces, Trentino and South Tyrol, making them autonomous provinces within the autonomous region. It also introduced consociational power-sharing between the German-, Italian-, and Ladin-speaking linguistic groups in South Tyrol. The so-called ‘second’ Autonomy Statute was implemented over a twenty-year period, and the conflict was declared settled in 1992. A variety of amendments in practice made by Enactment Decree over the following decade were formally incorporated into the Autonomy Statute at the same time as the 2001 Italian constitutional reform (see Woelk et al. 2007 for a comprehensive overview of South Tyrol’s autonomy arrangement, and Larin & Röggla 2019 for a recent update).
- The 2001 constitutional reform transformed Italy’s system of government and the distribution of powers: the state now has competence in a limited number of areas (including foreign relations, immigration, social security and some general provisions on education), while regions have legislative powers in all matters that are not explicitly covered by state legislation (Roux 2008).
- This reform further adopted fiscal federalism and devolved the capacity to raise and manage their revenues to sub-state administrations (Calamai 2009). As Wolff explains, "the constitutional status of the Bolzano/ Bozen province is now very similar to that of a state in a federal country" (2004, 394).
2. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE STATUS, EITHER IN THE REGION OR NATIONALLY
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- The 1948 Autonomy Statute stated that Italian was the official language of the state and of the region of Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol. German could, however, be used in public life, in public admin- istration as well as in the political sphere.
- The 1972 revision of the Autonomy Statute made the German language equal to Italian in the region of Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol. This was taken to mean that "German was henceforward to be considered a local official language" (Alcock 2001, 13).
- The official status of German in the Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol region (as well as of French in Valle d'Aosta) has also been recognized in Italy's report to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 1999).
- German-speakers are allowed to communicate in their own language with the region's administrative authorities as well as in judicial proceedings, but this is not required of the state administrative authorities (Special Statute for Trentino–Alto Adige, 2001). Ladin-speakers have similar linguistic rights to German-speakers, but these are mostly limited to the predominantly Ladin-speaking valleys.
- Since 2001, the Constitution of the Italian Republic recognizes the bilingual name "Alto Adige/Südtirol."
3. GUARANTEES OF REPRESENTATION IN THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT OR ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS
- Italy possesses a bicameral legislature; the Chamber of Deputies (630 members) and the Senate (321 members) have equal powers. Elections are held through a fully proportional system based on party-list representation. Constituencies either respect (for the Chamber of Deputies) or correspond to (for the Senate) regional borders (Repubblica Italiana n.d.).
- Some pro-minority additions to the electoral rules show an intent to have minorities represented in the central government and court.
- Seats in the Chamber of Deputies are allocated among the parties that pass (state-wide) thresholds according to the total vote on a state-wide basis. However, parties representing linguistic minorities can obtain seats if they gather at least 20 percent of the ballots in their constituency.
- The Senate is elected on a regional basis. Article 57 of the constitution states that no region can have fewer than seven senators, and guarantees that Valle d'Aosta (a region with a majority of French-speakers) has one seat.
- According to the constitution, three delegates from every region participate in the election of the president of the Republic (in a joint session with the Parliament) so as to ensure that minorities are represented.
- While German-speakers do not form a majority in the region of Trentino–Alto Adige/Südtirol, guarantees of representation at the regional and provincial levels (see below) ensure that members of the minority have a role in the selection of the president.
- The Constitutional Court is composed of 15 judges chosen partly by the president of the Republic, by the Parliament and by the three superior tribunals. Membership of the Constitutional Court seeks to "mirror […] the political, legal and cultural pluralism of the country as closely as possible" (Corte Costituzionale 2019, 22), but there is no guarantee of representation for the national minorities, and no native German-speaking judge currently sits on the court.
- Since South Tyrol is a consociation, there are a wide variety of representational guarantees at both the regional and particularly the provincial level. Several political and administrative positions are reserved according to linguistic group affiliation, in some instances rotating between groups. The most important are on the provincial Joint Commission of Six, which must include at least one German-speaker as a state representative and at least one Italian-speaker as a Provincial representative; the Provincial executive, in which one of the three Vice Presidencies must be allocated to each official linguistic group; and the Province’s Autonomous Section of the Regional Court of Administrative Justice, appointments to which must be equally distributed between German- and Italian-speakers. In addition to this, all executives (regional, provincial, and municipal) must include affiliates of each official linguistic group in proportion to their distribution in the relevant council.
4. PUBLIC FUNDING OF MINORITY-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITIES / SCHOOLS / MEDIA
- South Tyrol has separate German-, Italian-, and Ladin-language school systems, which are funded in proportion to the size of each linguistic group in the province.
- During the 1990s, the province's autonomy was extended to include competency on university education, and the trilingual "Free University Bolzano/Bozen" was founded in 1998 following these developments (Woelk et al. 2007).
- Mitter (2004) further mentions that special agreements between Italy and its neighbours make it possible for members of the German minority to attend universities in Austria and Germany Evidence 35.
- The Public Broadcasting Act of 1975 included protection of minorities within the responsibilities of the public service broadcaster, Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). This meant the reservation of television and radio program slots for linguistic minorities in Bolzano/Bozen (German and Ladin), in Valle d'Aosta
- (French) and in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Slovene), but only by specific request of the minorities themselves (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2004).
- These provisions were modified due to their unsatisfactory application and their failure to achieve successful results in practice. The Minority Languages Act (1999) now states that RAI and the Ministry for Communications have responsibility for ensuring that favourable conditions exist for protection of minority-language broadcasting in relevant regions (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2004, 266).
- Specific regional agreements between these regions and the public broadcaster regulate the transmission of programming in the protected language. Since 1975, Rundfunk-Anstalt Südtirol (RAS), a provincial equivalent to RAI funded exclusively by the local authority of Bozen, broadcasts in German, Italian and Ladin throughout South Tyrol (Rundfunk-Anstalt Südtirol 2019).
- There is no obligation for any other broadcasters (other than RAI) to include minority-language program- ming. In South Tyrol, however, both public and some private radio and television stations broadcast programs in German. Measures have also been adopted in order to fund minority-language newspapers.
- The German-speaking population of South Tyrol can also receive television or radio programs produced in Germany or in Austria (Venice Commission 1994).
5. CONSTITUTIONAL OR PARLIAMENTARY AFFIRMATION OF "MULTINATIONALISM"
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- There is no explicit affirmation of multinationalism or of the "national" diversity of Italy in the Constitution of the Italian Republic. On the contrary, there is a basic assumption that all citizens are members of the Italian nation, and Italy as a whole is described as "the Nation" (see articles 9, 59, 67, for example). There is no mention of the "national" character of the territorial minority in the Statute of Autonomy either.
- Only language is used as a distinctive feature to identify minorities (which are protected by special measures), excluding all references to "ethnic" or "national" minorities.
- According to Palermo, "the multi-cultural composition of the Italian 'nation' is emphasized by recognizing the minority languages" (2000, 9). In a later work, he describes Italy as a "national state of multinational and promotional inspiration" (Palermo and Woelk 2003, 228), assessing that recognition, protection and promotion of minorities are an essential component of the country's constitutional order.
6. ACCORDED INTERNATIONAL PERSONALITY
(E.G., ALLOWING THE SUB-STATE REGION TO SIT ON INTERNATIONAL BODIES, SIGN TREATIES, OR HAVE THEIR OWN OLYMPIC TEAM)
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- The legal framework in Italy has traditionally been very restrictive with regard to the international role and actions of sub-state entities, although it has gradually gained some flexibility (Keating 2000).
- Starting in 1970, members of the parliaments of South Tyrol and of Tyrol (an Austrian state) have held joint sessions of the two parliaments, discussing common issues and signing agreements and conventions. These meetings were extended to include members of the Parliament of Trentino in 1991 (Europaregion Tirol–Südtirol/Alto Adige–Trentino 2010a).
- Some competencies in the EU sector (such as the right to open a South Tyrol Office in Brussels) were given to the region during the 1990s, partly through court processes (Woelk et al. 2007). The Italian delegation to the Committee of the Regions of the European Union includes one representative of the Bolzano/Bozen province.
- Together with the Austrian state of Tyrol, the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol forms the Euroregion Tirol–Südtirol/Alto Adige–Trentino. They established the first trans-boundary EU liaison office in Brussels in 1995 (Europaregion Tirol–Südtirol/Alto Adige–Trentino 2010b).
- Changes made to the Constitution of the Italian Republic in 2001 now present the international and EU relations of the different regions as a shared competency: legislative powers are vested in the regions while the determination of fundamental principles is done by the central government. Article 117 further specifies that "the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano take part in preparatory decision-making process of EU legislative acts in the areas that fall within their responsibilities."