The dynamics of decentralization in Italy: towards a federal solution?
This paper analyses the recent process of state decentralisation in Italy from the perspectives of political science and constitutional law. It considers the conflicting pressures and partisan opportunism of the decentralising process, and how these have adversely affected the consistency and completeness of the new constitutional framework. The paper evaluates the major institutional reforms affecting state decentralisation, including the 2001 constitutional reform and the more recent legislation on fiscal federalism. It argues that while the legal framework for decentralisation remains unclear and contradictory in parts, the Constitutional Court has performed a key role in interpreting the provisions and giving life to the decentralised system, in which regional governments now perform a much more prominent role. This new system of more decentralised multi-level government must nevertheless contend with a political culture and party system that remains highly centralised, while the administrative apparatus has undergone no comparable shift to take account of state decentralisation, leading to the duplication of bureaucracy at all territorial levels and continuing conflicts over policy jurisdiction. Unlike in federal systems these conflicts cannot be resolved in Italy through mechanisms of 'shared rule', since formal inter-governmental coordination structure are weak and entirely consultative.