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Headquarters of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (France).
© Consiglio d'Europa

Council of Europe: the fourth opinion on the implementation of the Framework convention on national minorities in Italy was published

On 28 July 2016 the Council of Europe’s Advisory committee on the Framework convention on national minorities published its fourth opinion on the implementation of the convention in Italy. The opinion was adopted on 19 November 2015 and was based upon Italy’s report submitted on 12 March 2014; information obtained from governmental and non-governmental organisations and the country visits carried by the Advisory committee in Rome, Lecce and Sternatia between 29 June and 3 July 2015.

According to the Advisory committee, the protection of national minorities in Italy is asymmetrical due to its decentralised governmental structure. Groups such as the Ladin and German-speaking minorities in Trentino Alto Adige are better protected thanks to the autonomous character of certain provinces and regions recognised by the Italian constitution. However, further minorities living outside autonomous regions or provinces or lacking historical recognition face stronger discrimination. Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities are a major instance since they often face socioeconomic marginalisation and are segregated into so-called nomad camps in precarious and geographically isolated conditions.

The Advisory committee recommends to contrast socioeconomic marginalisation of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities especially by reducing school drop-out and by planning the progressive termination of the nomad-camps system and the transfer of their residents into social housing. The National strategy for the inclusion of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities adopted in 2011 was welcomed by stakeholders and civil society, but its implementation was slow and low-funded according to the Advisory committee.

Furthermore, the opinion reports a lack of access to means of communication for demographically smaller minorities, who can not enjoy neither press nor radio-television broadcast in their own languages. A particular instance is represented by the Sardinian language, which is spoken by one million people but unused neither in radio-television broadcasting nor on newspapers. The Advisory committee hence requires Italy to address this matter. Moreover, Italy is advised to allocate funds for minority languages teaching and study, since small minorities’ idioms risk disappearing.

From a social perspective, the Advisory committee finds that the Italian society is open and tolerant towards historically established and recognised linguistic communities. However, it has recently deepened its anti-gypsy feeling. Recommendations thus regard this aspect as well, together with the need to render the National office against racial discrimination (UNAR) effectively independent, for it now depends directly on the presidency of the Council of ministers.

Italy’s comment to the Advisory committee’s opinion states the government’s engagement in improving minorities’ conditions by quoting the 1999 and 2001 reforms, which still nowadays frame the relationship between state and minorities. Furthermore, the Italian government stresses the increasing strength of its fight against discrimination, with the creation of the Observatory for security against discriminatory acts (OSCAD) as a major instance. Nonetheless, Italy’s comment underlines that the country underwent major financial shortcomings due to the economic crisis.

The Framework convention on national minorities is an instrument of the Council of Europe signed by Italy as early as 1995 and ratified in 1997. The Advisory committee monitors its implementation cyclically every five years on a country-by-country basis.