Italy/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.2 Division of jurisdiction

"Decentralisation vs. centrality" as an issue in the arts and culture has always been widely debated in Italy, so much so that legislation adopted throughout the years with the aim of further decentralising cultural responsibilities has not been implemented either by the centre-left, or by the centre-right governments alternately in power. After the creation of the regions, the Italian national administration has always been reluctant to hand over to local government part of its direct managing responsibilities in the cultural field, as foreseen originally by Leg. Decree 616/1977, and later on by the so-called "Decentralisation Laws" (59/1997 and 112/1998). In fact, prominent experts of public law have been talking of "unfinished decentralisation", or "insisted centralisation" (M. Cammelli, 2003).

It should be added, however, that some inconsistencies do exist in the above mentioned legislation adopted in the 1990s, which introduced a quite controversial split of core administrative functions between safeguard (tutela) and valorisation (valorizzazione), the latter referring tomanagerial functions fostering participation and access to museums and monuments, organisation of exhibitions and events, etc. Furthermore, whereas, in Law 59/1997, only safeguarding of heritage (tutela) was actually listed among the cultural responsibilities to be retained by the state, and all those dealing with valorizzazione were to be devolved to regional and local authorities, Decree 112/1998 significantly extended the range of national powers. It gave back influence in the management of heritage and the performing arts to the state, by introducing concurrent legislative competencies of both the state and the regions on the valorisation of cultural goods and activities. The safeguard / valorisation split was eventually integrated in art 117 of the Constitution by Constitutional Law 3/2001, and confirmed by the recent Constitutional Law 12/1/2016, which has just extensively revised our Constitution, and is presently waiting to be confirmed through a referendum.

A comprehensive agreement among the different levels of government about the scope and content of the principle of "concurrent legislative competencies" on heritage and the arts, though, has not been easily reached over the years. In fact, several controversies between the state and the regions had to be settled by the State/Regions Conference, rather than by the Constitutional Court (see chapter 5.3.6). Also, Article 4 of the Heritage Codex – which allows the Ministry for Heritage to devolve additional functions to the regions by stipulating ad hoc agreements - is considered by most as failing to solve once and for all the too often delayed issue of a clear reallocation of competencies among the different levels of governments (Cammelli, 2004). However, the mood seems presently much more appeased, thanks to the many years of fruitful opportunities for cooperation achieved by MiBACT and the regions through common work in joint planning programmes, often in the framework of the Structural Funds (see chapter 3.3).

Chapter published: 14-07-2016