Italy in Europe

Outline of the Country´s Legal System

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

The head of the state is the President of the Republic. The President is elected to a sevenyear term by the two Houses of Parliament in joint session and by three delegates of Regional Councils for each region (the exception is Valle d’Aosta which has only one delegate). The President has the power to dissolve one or both Houses after hearing the opinion of the Presidents of each House.

Executive power is vested in the Government. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the Government’s general policy. Other Ministers, who are responsible collectively for their acts as a body and individually for their respective government departments, are also appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Government must receive an initial vote of confidence by Parliament, and holds power until the confidence is revoked or Parliament’s term expires. Together, the Prime Minister and the other Ministers make up the Council of Ministers (Consiglio dei Ministri). Except in cases of necessity and urgency, the Government may not issue Law Decrees (Decreti legge) unless the power to do so is properly delegated by Parliament. Law Decrees must be submitted to Parliament. They lose effect as of the date of issue if they are not converted into law within sixty days of their publication.

Legislative power is vested in Parliament (Parlamento). Parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) and the Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica). Legislation may be introduced by the Government, a Member of Parliament, certain other specified bodies, or fifty thousand voters. Ordinarily, legislation is reviewed by committees and then submitted to the Houses. After legislation is passed by both houses and promulgated by the President, it becomes law and is published in the Official Gazette (Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica) and in the Official Statute Book of Laws and Decrees (Raccolta Ufficiale delle Leggi e dei Decreti).

The Italian legal system is based on the civil law tradition.

Judicial power is vested in the Judiciary, which is divided into five categories of jurisdiction: ordinary, administrative, auditing, military, and fiscal. Administrative jurisdiction is exercised by the Regional Administrative Courts (Tribunali Amministrativi Regionali, abbreviated TAR) at the local level and by the Council of State (Consiglio di Stato) at the national level. Auditing jurisdiction is exercised by the State Auditors’ Court (Corte dei Conti) through the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Procura della Repubblica). Fiscal jurisdiction is exercised by the Provincial Fiscal Commissions (Commissione Tributaria Provinciale) and the District Fiscal Commissions (Commissione Tributaria Distrettuale).

Ordinary jurisdiction is administered in the ordinary courts by magistrates who act either as a Judge (giudice) or a Public Prosecutor (pubblico ministero). The courts and Judges include:

  • the Justice of the Peace (Giudice di pace), which has no criminal jurisdiction;
  • the Tribunal (Tribunale), which is a court of first instance for more serious civil and criminal cases and also hears appeals from the Justice of the Peace;
  • the Justice of Surveillance (Giudice di sorveglianza), which enforces sentences;
  • the Juvenile Courts (Tribunale per i minorenni);
  • the Court of Appeals (Corte di appello), which hears appeals from the Tribunals; and
  • the Court of Cassation (Corte di cassazione), which is the highest court of appeals.

In addition, there are several special courts and a Judge for Preliminary Inquiries (Giudice per le investigazioni preliminari), who examines evidence presented by the police in criminal matters and decides whether such evidence is sufficient to bring the accused to trial.

The Italian Constitutional Court is composed of fifteen justices, each of whom serves a nine-year term. One-third of the justices are nominated by the President, one-third by Parliament, and one-third by the ordinary and administrative supreme courts. The Constitutional Court hears:

  • cases concerning the constitutionality of laws and acts having the force of law emanating from central and regional government;
  • cases concerning the constitutional assignment of powers within the State, between the State and the Regions and between Regions; and
  • impeachment of the President.”

Law in the Italian Literature

The Italians never had much love for theological studies, and those who were addicted to them preferred Paris to Italy. It was something more practical, more positive, that had attraction for the Italians, and especially the study of Roman law. This zeal for the study of jurisprudence furthered the establishment of the medieval universities of Bologna, Padua, Vicenza, Naples, Salerno, Modena and Parma; and these, in their turn, helped to spread culture, and to prepare the ground in which the new vernacular literature was afterwards to be developed. The tenacity of classical traditions, the affection for the memories of Rome, the preoccupation with political interests, particularly shown in the wars of the Lombard communes against the empire of the Hohenstaufens, a spirit more naturally inclined to practice than to theory—all this had a powerful influence on the fate of Italian literature. Italy was wanting in that combination of conditions from which the spontaneous life of a people springs. This was chiefly owing to the fact that the history of the Italians never underwent interruption,—no foreign nation having come in to change them and make them young again. (…)

The intellectual life of Italy showed itself in an altogether special, positive, almost scientific, form, in the study of Roman law, in the chronicles of Farfa, of Marsicano and of many others, in translations from Aristotle, in the precepts of the school of Salerno, in the travels of Marco Polo—in short, in a long series of facts which seem to detach themselves from the surroundings of the middle age, and to be united on the one side with classical Rome and on the other with the Renaissance. (…)

Francesco da Barberino, a learned lawyer who was secretary to bishops, a judge, a notary, wrote two little allegorical poems—the Documenti d’ amore and Del reggimento e dei costumi delle donne. Like the Tesoretto, these poems are of no value as works of art, but are, on the other hand, of importance in the history of manners. A fourth allegorical work was the Intelligenza, by some attributed to Dino Compagni, but probably not his, and only a version of French poems. (…)

Many poets of the 14th century have left us political works. Of these Fazio degli Uberti, the author of Dittamondo, who wrote a Serventese to the lords and people of Italy, a poem on Rome, a fierce invective against Charles IV. of Luxemburg, deserves notice, and Francesco di Vannozzo, Frate Stoppa and Matteo Frescobaldi. It may be said in general that following the example of Petrarch many writers devoted themselves to patriotic poetry. From this period also dates that literary phenomenon known under the name of Petrarchism. The Petrarchists, or those who sang of love, imitating Petrarch’s manner, were found already in the 14th century. (…)

While the new spirit of the times led men to the investigation of historical sources, it also led them to inquire into the mechanism of economical and social laws. Francesco Galiani Social science. wrote on currency; Gaetano Filangieri wrote a Scienza della legislazione. Cesare Beccaria, in his treatise Dei delitti e delle pene, made a contribution to the reform of the penal system and promoted the abolition of torture. (1)

Description of Italy

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes italy in the following terms: [1] Never deeply blamed for its part in World War II or taken over-seriously as a belligerent, Italy found peacetime reconciliation relatively easy. Under Alcide de Gasperi, a former member of the Resistance who founded the Italian Christian Democratic Party and served as prime minister from 1945 to 1953, Italy joined NATO and signed the Treaty of Paris, which inaugurated the European Coal and Steel Community. After de Gasperi came a long succession of weak coalition governments – more than one a year on average since 1945. These followed the policy of making Italy a founder member of each institution of the European Community, but left the active shaping of Europe’s destiny to France, Germany and the Commission. Italy contented itself with unswerving support for federal initiatives – doubtless mainly because of cynicism on the part of Italians about the quality of their own political administration, which they saw as corrupt and chaotic, although another factor will have been an undeveloped sense of nationhood. Italian opinion polls and referendums have invariably shown a large majority in favour of the principle of being governed by European institutions.

The size of Italy’s black economy is a matter as much of pride as of shame (it was the basis of the claim in the 1980s to have overtaken the British economy); and the country’s disappointing record of compliance with Community Regulations and Directives (not to mention imaginative exploitation of Community subsidies) is greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. Over the years, financial indiscipline resulted in frequent devaluations and an exorbitant national debt. Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, Italy has been one ofEurope’s outstanding success stories. Its economy has grown rapidly, based largely on the vigour and design skills of its small and medium-sized enterprises in the north, so that from impoverished post-war beginnings the country now approaches the prosperity of the average EU member state.

After the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, Italy set its heart on acquiring a reputation for financial rectitude in order to become one of the first wave participants in the single currency. It made considerable progress in fiscal consolidation, though its debt legacy from the spendthrift years will take decades to shrink. When, therefore, the choice of participants was made by heads of government in 1998, Italy (strongly backed by France) was deemed to have done enough to qualify for immediate membership, despite residual German doubts about the durability of the country’s anti-inflationary policies. It was a reward merited not only by the country’s loyalty to the EU but also by its unique contribution to European civilisation.

The single currency has not, however, proved a panacea for Italy’s problems. Politically, the country continues to stagger from one coalition to another, with a bewildering variety of neo-fascists, neo-communists, Greens, regionalists, centrists and midget parties jockeying fractiously for the balance of power (see more in this European encyclopedia). Memories are still fresh of the indictment of three former prime ministers, Giulio Andreotti, Bettino Craxi and Silvio Berlusconi, and of the collapse of the Christian Democratic Party in the corruption scandals of the early 1990s. The divide between the destitute mafia-ridden south and the wealthy north is as sharp as ever, and the country has suffered a prolonged bout of economic stagnation. Even the euro has been a disappointment, falling precipitously against the dollar since its launch in 1999. With a string of referendums on domestic issues dominating the political agenda in 2000, Italy would again be a relatively passive observer as the EU approached the difficult constitutional questions arising from the planned incorporation of the former communist countries of Central Europe.

Description of Il sorpasso

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes il sorpasso in the following terms: [1] The moment in the 1980s when Italy, boosted by its black economy, allegedly overtook the UK to become the world’s fifth largest economy (after the USA, Japan, Germany and France). Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s characteristic response was that in that case Italy’s contribution to the EC’s budget should be higher (see more in this European encyclopedia). (By 2000 it seemed that the UK had not only resumed fifth position but had, by most measures, overtaken France for fourth.)


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

See Also


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

See Also


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

See Also

Further Reading

Online Resources

  • Italian Parliament:
  • Minister of Justice:
  • Constitutional Court:

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