We are distracted: victims of mass distraction, who can’t stop talking about the Sanremo Festival, and who will only later discover all of a sudden that those in power have been dismantling the Italian state piece by piece while no one looking.
Article 116 of our Constitution provides for the principle of differentiated autonomy for the regions that ask for it, but the Italian framers could not have imagined that this would be pushed to the point of giving the regions direct responsibility for managing over 20 types of government functions that are today shared with the Italian state under the principle of “concurrent legislation.”
Currently, the regions of Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna are negotiating an expansion of their powers, ranging from the protection of health and workplace safety to food regulations, civil defense, land management, transport and energy, the regulation of the professions, and even international relations and relations with the European Union. What’s more, they are also expected to gain powers on matters which are the exclusive competence of the Italian state, such as the organization of the justice system and the general norms governing education, environmental protection, ecosystems and cultural goods.
This amounts to a kind of domestic “Italexit.” Other regions also intend to join the autonomy demands of the current three: Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and Marche. In short, at the end of a process that, it should be pointed out, started under the Gentiloni government with the organization of two regional referenda, what is being prepared is quite a bit more than “differentiated autonomy”: it looks more like a race for the exits, with the regions convinced they can do better all by themselves, bypassing the state altogether. Not coincidentally, this “flight” involves the northern regions, which appear determined to make a run for it with the goods, leaving the southern regions to their fate. The latter are supposed to be appeased by a “basic income” paid for from the scraps, which itself has an uncertain future.
At this point, it all starts with these three regions. It should be noted that the region making the most demands is Emilia Romagna, currently run by the center-left, who are perhaps thinking they can find some “left-wing” path to secession, manifesting their unacceptable complicity in setting up a system with a “first-tier” Italy and a “second-tier” one. And one can indeed speak about “secession,” because that is what it means when the individual regions become autonomous, for instance, in matters related to the environment: e.g. in the area of soil protection, the protection against water pollution, the management of water resources and wastewater management, the cleaning of polluted sites, the protection of the air and reduction of emissions into the atmosphere, and, finally, in the prevention of environmental damage and environmental recovery, as well as in the management of natural preserves.
The outcome of the negotiations between the regions and the state will arrive on the Parliament floor as a done deal, and, at a time when belittling Parliament has become something of a national sport, it will be passed quickly. My impression is that we are losing yet another opportunity to rebuild this country, perhaps by putting together a new solidarity pact between different levels of government, recognizing and overcoming the delays and problems that have resulted over the decades in a gap in terms of administrative efficiency and quality of services between the different regions that is truly staggering—at the limit of de facto secession.
However, it is madness to believe that we can get out of this crisis by closing ourselves off, each in own territory, in a sort of regional sovereignism. There are momentous challenges ahead, and perhaps the absurdity of this direction is nowhere more evident than when it comes to the environment. How do you implement good environmental policies without a strong national-level management based on solidarity? You cannot save yourself alone, and you cannot do it better in a “two-tier” system—it cannot be done at the international level, and it is even less plausible at the local level.
Instead of all this, it would be better to think, for instance, about the role of metropolitan cities, about how to build a real network of collaboration and strategy, or about how to build development projects for areas with similar characteristics, whether “internal” or not. We do need to change course—but not by destroying or tearing ourselves apart, but by imagining new activities and forms of collaboration that would tie us to Europe and to the world. Is the left still capable of proposing a different way forward, in the regions where it is still in power? Or will we follow the lead of the right, even in this?
Rossella Muroni is a member of Parliament from the Liberi e Uguali party.