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Italy: Regionalism in Europe: Part 1

A talk organised by the KCL Italian Society, on the 16th January 2020 at King's College London

Speaker: Italian MP Emanuela Rossini

Chaired by Professor Leila Simona Talani from KCL

Regionalism in Italy

Italian MP, Emanuela Rossini, is a member of the linguistic minority group in the Italian Chambers of Deputies. Before becoming an active politician, she worked in policy making focusing on Academia and International Relations. She was elected as amember of the Italian parliament in 2018 and now seeks to introduce regional autonomy in Italy, mainly in Trentino-Alto Adrige.

Responsibility of a politician She starts her talk by saying “We are all connected”, choosing an example the fact that she has family relatives in Scotland. These words underine the message she wants us to understand about the world. Emanuela Rossini was born, as she says, “in a unique geographical area situated in Northern Italy”, the region of Trentino-Alto Adrige. Today she represents this region in the Italian Parliament. A local saying says that “One person is equal to one thousand trees”. As she entered the Parliament, she not only knew that she was representing her people but also her one thousand trees. The autonomy of the region is based on a peaceful cohesion between different minorities that constitute that geographical area. At the local level, her region has administrative and legislative power to carry out all the functions that it requires to set out, including the adoption of a legal system seperate from that of the Central Government. She states that responsibility is a key word when working in politics, “The regional authority has the responsibility to encourage and finance local development”. The Italian MP points out the importance of understanding and realising that the region is diverse demographically and ecologically, in order govern and represent a region.

Interdependent bodies and border regions The region of Trentino-Alto Adige works closely with the Central Government to solve problems at the local level. The central and regional governments are interdependent. She adds that, “negotiation and dialogue are the key features of the job and role of being a politician”. Together with negotiation and responsibility, these are characterisitcs that make it possible to find solutions to potential problems. Moreover, “the advance status of regional autonomy today is the best way to keep interdependence and therefore work well with the Central Government”, taking as an example border regions, which have this advance status because of their transnational interactions. Trentino Alto Adrige is an autonomous region based on an international treaty, since it shares border with Austria and Switzerland. Other Italian border regions include Sicily, Valle d’Aosta, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Sardinia.

The National Framework Law The demand by certain border regions in Italy for autonomy raises fears of fragmentation of the country. Indeed, demand for autonomy can lead to a call for Independence, as is the case between Spain and Catalonia. This feared phenomenon arises from personal negotiations of each region with the Central Government. This one-to-one negotiation may conduct to a division of regions into first and second class regions. First class would be the regions which have high economic importance to Italy and the second class regions would be those with less important priorities. To avoid potential fragmentation, Emanuela Rossini is working on a National Framework Law that demands the participation of all regions in negotiations with the Central Government. The drafting of this law is allowed by Article 116 of the Italian Constitution, which allows for devolution. Once more, the importance of negotiation is expressed. She added that this law will bring together two principles: firstly, the State will carry out actions that are not possible at local level, secondly, the inequity distribution, which means that marginalized areas needs more subsidies than others. Currently, this law is nearly ready and is being discussed in Parliament, it is, she adds, “supposed to be approved by the end of 2020”.

Transnational cooperation The region she represnents may have the status of advanced regional autonomy because of its geographical location. She believes that one of the models for future Europe is transnational cooperation, which translate into “sharing, which means what I do for this problem and what you do for this problem”. She encourages horizontal, as opposed to vertical, relationships, between European Members of Parliament in order to better improve European relations. Exchange and interconnection between countries is the future of the relations between European countries. At present they allow the exchange of cultural, political, administrative and educational ideas, but this should be further exploited in the future. Emanuela Rossini concluded by stressing that countries are networks that should be used more extensively in order to maintain stable relations. Natalia Vasnier, Undergraduate King's College London

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