Re-centralization threats continue to haunt Italy's special autonomies six months later

Minister for Constitutional Reform says special autonomy statutes should be abolished, later argues such a reform could not be implemented now · Sardinia and Trentino presidents criticise Minister's stance · Aosta Valley wants constitutional reform to be made under federal principles · Renzi's government proposal is to re-centralize some powers

Six months were not enough for Italy's five autonomous regions with special statute (Aosta Valley, Trentino-South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia) to receive guarantees over their powers: a constitutional reform that was announced in April to reorganize the distribution of powers between the Italian government, autonomous governments and regions continues to spark controversy. The climate for a mutual understanding is not being much helped by statements such as Maria Elena Boschi's: the Italian Minister for Constitutional Reform earlier this week said that, if it were up to her, special autonomies may well be abolished.

Boschi added that the Italian government "can not advance a proposal like that" at this moment, but her words were enough to raise criticism among presidents and political leaders of special autonomies. The President of Sardinia was one of them: Francesco Pigliaru said his government will be "on front line in the fight against neo-centralism, [which is] based on a superficial and completely wrong idea: that everything would work netter in Rome than in Cagliari or Trento."

It is in Trentino that Boschi's words got one of the worst receptions. Trentino autonomous province President Ugo Rossi believes criticism against special autonomous statutes is based on false and outdated ideas. In general, opponents to autonomous regions suggest that those territories are unfairly favored, both in terms of powers and economy. Rossi says the opposite: Trentino-South Tyrol, "precisely because of the special autonomy, is making a huge and 'special' effort to lend a hand in the country."

Similarly, Trentino Senator Franco Panizza sent a letter to Boschi recalling that going against special autonomy equals to "impoverishing the country," because that deprives it from having "a model of government and a laboratory that can trace a way out of the crisis." "Panizza argued that autonomy has allowed Trentino to "assume its responsibilities" and turn this territory -which had formerly been marked by poverty and emigration- into one of the most developed in Italy.

Aostan opposition to constitutional reform

All this discussion is being made against the background of discussions on the reform of Title V of the Italian Constitution, which specifies the distribution of powers between state and regions -among which special autonomies. The approach by Matteo Renzi's government's is to re-centralize some powers, a lesser role for the Senate, and the introduction of the so-called "supremacy clause," which will give the Italian government new powers to intervene in matters under regional responsibility. Special autonomies in April issued an alarm call over this scenario.

Six months later, what safeguards could exist for special autonomies have not been specified. This has led to the adoption of a resolution by the Aosta Valley Council (local Parliament) asking the Aostan government to fight to protect self-government. Specifically, Aostan Council members want a constitutional reform done "under the principle of federalism and subsidiarity." The Aostan government and Parliament believe that this framework is not being respected.

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