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Domestic Federalism


The fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Regions in 1970 gives us an opportunity to take stock of their role, and their relations with the State. The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasized the utmost importance of these relations, given the fundamental role of the Regions in the health sector. Before this, we witnessed both expectations and tensions, triggered by the request of some Regions to implement the “differentiated regionalism” provided for in the Italian Constitution. In addition, the outcome of the constitutional referendum of 20-21 September 2020 confirmed the reduction in the number of MPs, already approved by the two Chambers. This reform has reopened the debate on what further steps can contribute to a more efficient functioning of Parliament, in particular by overcoming equal bicameralism.

This overall picture sets out the CSF’s agenda of priorities for 2021; for at its heart lies precisely the issue of the articulation of powers between the State and local authorities in Italy. We have a new opportunity to rethink the role of the Regions and avoid hasty re-centralizations, which underestimate that decentralization often helps better adapt policies to the specific features of the different territories; these also act as a “laboratory” for the definition of best practice, with the consistent aim of guaranteeing adequate standards of performance at the national level.

Therefore, in 2021, the CSF aims to further explore which institutional channels can best respond to the need for dialogue and exchange between the Regions and the State, and among the Regions themselves: from strengthening the role of the State-Regions Conference to the differentiation of tasks of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, making the latter a meeting point between national and regional demands. The aim is to reconcile specific territorial features and a national solidarity framework, and not to exacerbate regional disparities.

At the economic level, while the dubious argument over the “fiscal surplus” of each region overshadows the degree of interdependence among highly integrated areas, it remains true that there can be no real power without resources to substantiate it. Therefore, the issue of “fiscal federalism”, affected by the last decade’s crisis, is still pending. However, in 2021 the key issue will be the role of the Regions and cities in Italy’s strategies and projects within the Next Generation EU program. Here, the CSF will focus on examining which formulas can help take into account territorial specificities and preferences, avoiding fragmentation and localism in particular, in the ongoing ecological transition (see the next section).

Finally, it is also a priority for the CSF to always offer a key for comparative analysis, taking into account that many large democracies have an internal federal structure and that all experience centre-periphery tensions, even before Covid-19. A comparative approach makes it possible to assess the effectiveness of different governance systems and identify “best practice”, including in the field of institutional reform.

(From CSF’s 2021 Guidelines - approved on 31 October 2020)