24th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 19-21 March 2013)
Local and regional democracy in Italy
Speaking notes for Marina BESPALOVA, Congress member, (Russian Federation, EPP/CCE)
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I would like to give you, in my capacity as regional rapporteur, some information on our monitoring visit to Italy. My colleague, Knud Andersen, will present to you in more detail the issues as well as the recommendations we propose to make to the Italian authorities. This draft recommendation, which is now submitted to adoption, was approved by the Monitoring Committee in February. And I must say that we had on this occasion an interesting discussion.
Given the complex structure of local and regional set up and also the ongoing reform in Italy, we carried out the visit to Italy in two parts with a one-year interval, in November 2011 and December 2012. We were assisted in our work by Mr Chris Himsworth, consultant and member of the Group of Independent Experts.
We visited the cities of Rome, Milan and Bari, and met with the regional authorities of Lazio, Lombardia and Apulia as well as with the provincial authorities of Rome and Milan. We also had meetings with authorities at central level from five Ministries: that of the Interior, of Regional Affairs, of Territorial Cohesion, Economy and Finance and of Public Affairs and Innovation.
We were received by the presidents of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Court of Audit and members of parliamentary commissions. We met with academic experts, the Ombudsman for Rome, and representatives of the National Association of Italian Municipalities as well as representatives of regional, provincial and municipal associations. As you can see, we had a comprehensive and busy schedule, and also very fruitful discussions with both the elected representatives and the national authorities.
We were happy to note that recent years have seen a consolidation of the fundamental principle of local self- government in the Italian Constitution and a new chapter has been added on regions, provinces and municipalities.
In March 2011, a law on the funding of local authorities was adopted. It provides for the allocation of a portion of national taxes to local authorities, to compensate for certain State transfers which had been abolished. This is also a very welcome development.
My colleague will expound on the issues related to local authorities in detail but I would like to say, very briefly, that there are some serious issues as regards the competences, the independence and finances of local authorities in general.
As far as the regions are concerned, the adoption in 2009 of the Law on Fiscal Federalism setting out the fundamental principles for the coordination of public finances and the tax system was a step forward. And the fact that the regions have the right to commence proceedings in the Constitutional Court is also a positive point.
Nevertheless, our analysis of the situation is that the reform started a decade ago must continue now, to give both local and regional authorities a substantial share of public functions which should be full and exclusive.
Dear Colleagues, I leave the floor to my co-rapporteur, Knud Andersen, to tell you more about the issues as regards local government and our recommendations.
Thank you for your attention.