Regionalism

   Articles 114–133 (Title V) of the 1948 Constitution set out the powers and limitations on Italy’s regions, of which there are 20, subdivided into 103 provinces: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, The Marches, Latium, Abruzzi, Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the Valle d’Aosta. The last five are accorded semiautonomous status. Note that Sicily and Sardinia are islands; the other “special status” regions are border regions with large non-Italian-speaking minorities.
   At the close of World War II, General de Gaulle’s government in France sought to make good its territorial claims against Italy by occupying the Val d’Aosta and parts of Piedmont. Anglo-American counterpressure, including President Harry S. Truman’s threat to halt aid to France, obliged de Gaulle to withdraw, whereupon the Italian government announced that the Valdostani would have some administrative autonomy and that public schools would be instituted in which French would be the language of instruction.
   The World War I settlements had included Austria’s cession of the provinces of Trento (predominantly Italian-speaking) and Bolzano (Sud Tirol or Alto Adige), which is predominantly Germanspeaking. Benito Mussolini’s government had sought to Italianize both Val d’Aosta and Alto Adige by the selective assignment of teachers and other civil servants, investment policy, and labor transfers. In 1939, Adolf Hitler and Mussolini agreed to allow the local German-speaking population in Alto Adige, which was to be recognized as “forever Italian,” to choose, in a plebiscite, between being Italian or being German. Those choosing the latter option were to be transferred to the Third Reich. Others would accept Italianization. Of the nearly 267,000 voting, over 185,000 (nearly 70 percent) voted to go to Germany. The onset of World War II interrupted the transfer of such a large number of persons. When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, many German speakers were still in Alto Adige, which Germany quickly annexed. When the region was returned to Italy, two-thirds of the region’s population was—and remains—ethnically German. On 5 September, Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, who was himself from the Trentino, signed agreements with the Austrian government (the De Gasperi-Gruber Accord) guaranteeing the administrative, cultural, and economic autonomy of Alto Adige. Thus, two years before the Constitution created “special status,” both Val d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige had acquired that status. Each of the 20 regions, according to the enabling legislation passed by the Parliament, is governed by a legislative body (the Regional Council), which elects from among its members both the executive Giunta (cabinet) and the region’s president, who “represents the Region; promulgates regional laws and regulations; directs the administrative functions delegated by the State to the Region, in conformity with the instructions issued by the central government.” The better to ensure that conformity, the Constitution also calls for a resident commissioner to reside in the regional capital, whose duty is to “supervise the administrative functions of the State and ensure their coordination with those exercised by the Region.” That commissioner must countersign all regional legislative acts “within 30 days.” These regional entities were brought into existence only in 1970, 22 years after the Constitution called for them. Earlier attempts to implement the devolution to the regions of the powers exercised by the central government ran afoul of what, for the dominant Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC), was an unacceptable reality: that such a reform would add to the power of the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) in the “Red Belt” of central Italy.
   It was not until 1977 that the strength of the left could be applied to the question of regional devolution. The regions were given a measure of financial autonomy, especially in health care and city planning. The great divergences found in the success with which the gains in regional autonomy are utilized to the advantage of the citizenry have been the subject of a major study, which has concluded that those regions with a strong tradition of civic order are quicker to organize, to utilize the funds provided by the state, and to monitor expenditures.
   Since the 1990s, the political success of the Lega Nord/Northern League (LN) has put the whole question of greater regional powers onto the agenda. The center-left responded in 2000 by passing a somewhat half-hearted constitutional reform that reinforced the powers of the president of the region and allowed the regions to rewrite their own statutes and lay down the nature of their institutions and electoral laws for themselves. The regions are also being allowed to keep a greater share of sales tax revenues and become more self-financing. A stateregions coordination committee has also been introduced to improve policy making and to involve the regions at an earlier stage. These reforms were not enough for the Lega, which insisted during the 2001–2006 administration of the Casa delle Liberta/House of Freedoms upon a constitutional reform to give substantial powers over health care, the police, and education to the regions. The League also wanted the Senate to be turned into a chamber representing the regions. A major constitutional reform was eventually passed but was rejected by a resounding 61–39 percent majority in a referendum held in June 2006.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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