The contagion rate appears to be under control, Austria and Germany are proceeding with reopening (a matter much debated among the various Lands), and the regional governor Arno Kompatscher has decided that Phase 2.5 can already start in Bolzano. It is an unwritten law that the government of the autonomous Italian province tends to look across the Alps for guidance in its decision-making.
Approved on Thursday night with 28 “yes” votes, six abstentions and one vote against, the regional law aims to get people used to living with the coronavirus, allowing “the gradual resumption of freedom of movement for citizens, economic activities and social relations.”
But the national government has already decided to challenge it.
“It is a sign of responsibility that the autonomous province of Bolzano has included the reference to the national guidelines in the law,” said Minister for Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia on Friday morning. “However, it has decided to open some commercial activities despite the absence of the work guidelines that are still being drawn up, and therefore the government can take no other course of action than to challenge the law, limited to the parts that are in conflict with the rules on workplace safety.”
The final decision on whether to proceed with the legal challenge will be taken by the Council of Ministers. This divergent law adopted by the province of Bolzano was passed entirely lawfully, since it is an autonomous province, and not by means of the many ordinances passed by regions with regular status, a practice Minister Boccia objects to.
For this reason, the challenge will have to be made before the Constitutional Court—which, according to the hopes of another regional governor with a tendency to get far ahead of himself, the Venetian Zaia, “will be the Trojan horse of regional autonomy.”
“We trust in the citizens’ self-discipline and sense of responsibility,” said Kompatscher, a member of the Südtiroler Volkspartei, who was quickly held up as an example by Salvini. And indeed, there is no lack of discipline here. Friday afternoon, in the center of Bolzano, we didn’t notice much of a difference compared to previous days.
The usual (few) shops were open, those selling children’s clothing and telephone services, the grocery stores and bakeries, while those that used to offer bar services before the forced closure had been offering takeaway coffee since last Monday, and since a few days ago had begun to also serve freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juice. A beer pub had improvised a counter right behind the front door and was offering “beers to go” and “wurstels to go,” while ice-cream parlors were selling their wares in family-size trays, also only for takeaway.
Everywhere, even in pharmacies, supermarkets and post offices, there are markings with colored duct tape indicating the distances to be maintained—and the people are lining up scrupulously behind them. At the weekly market in Merano yesterday, there were just a few fruit and vegetable stalls, and we also saw a couple of sellers of cold cuts and cheeses and one seller of plants and flowers—about 10 vendors in all, in the large area that is usually bustling with tents and stalls, whose perimeter was marked scrupulously with the red and white tape that is typical of road markings.
A security officer was present at the entrance, with a gel to spray on the hands of each person who entered and with wooden pliers he used to extract gloves from an open package lying on the table, positioned to block any uncontrolled access to the area. Luckily, there was also a stand offering sandwiches and krapfen.
The residents of Bolzano are respecting the rules established by Kompatscher, who believes that this crisis is much worse than the financial crisis of 2008, and for this reason—one may suspect—deems it necessary to allow the earlier restart of social and economic life. For some days, he has been saying that he wants to do this in the areas where the province has jurisdiction by virtue of the law establishing its autonomous status; however, as far as movement towards the rest of the country, schools and universities or sporting events, the national regulations still apply.
“After Rome has failed to listen for weeks to requests for regional differentiation of the measures taken, we decided to undertake our own legislative path,” he said on Friday after the publication of the new law in the official bulletin of the Region. The law (with 4 articles stretching over 50 pages) is now in force, and will remain so during the process of legal challenge.
We’ll see what happens this week, as freedom of movement on the regional territory is once again allowed without self-certification. From Monday, “businesses related to personal services, including hairdressers, barbers and beauticians” were allowed to open, as well as catering services and bars, pubs, restaurants, ice cream parlors and pastry shops.
Starting on Monday, museums and cultural institutions, including libraries and youth centers, will be able to resume full activity as well, although they are not required to do so. From the rumors we heard in front of the bars, which were busy cleaning, washing tables and chairs and setting up sunshades, it seems that some people still want to wait until May 18 and the official go-ahead from Rome.