Lamenting the erosion of the rule of law in Italy, a European Voice editorial (3 February 2011) highlights Italy’s recent reform concerning its non-Italian tecahing staff (lettori) as “a particularly flagrant breach of EU law”.
The editorial chose the occasion of a memorial service at Milan’s Bocconi University for the late Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, (one of Italy’s most respected politicians in Europe), to reflect on the declining standards of Italian politicians and how this is weakening the EU at a time when the Mediterranean is in turmoil.
The “Gelmini” law which came into force on 29 January 2011 “extinguishes” legal rights of lettori.
Article 26 denys them – in their quest for fair treatment, equal pay and pensions – access to a judged decision on the merits of their claims in Italian courts.
Most of the foreign lecturers are nearing retirement age and some have died without ever having enjoyed full and proper pension rights.
See link European Voice : Erosion of Italy’s European tradition is a crying shame
The foreign lecturers’ campaign for equal pay, equal pensions and equal treatment received a boost when the law came under fire from the chair of the European Parliament‘s Petitions Committee, Ms Erminia Mazzoni – a key member of Mr Berlusconi‘s Il Popolo della Libertà party – who on 25 January 2011 told the Parliament that the foreign language lecturers (lettori) case “had gone on for far too long”.
“It gives us food for thought” she said, describing the case as “undoubtedly extreme” and called upon the Italian authorities to explain how in “real day to day terms they intend to tackle an existing problem” adding that the European Parliament “should call upon them to ensure that they shoulder their responsibility once and for all”.
Article 26 of the Gelmini law – see English translation & original text Trans. Gelmini Art 26 p.3 re-interprets judgments of the European Court of Justice – which has the sole and supreme right to interpret EU law, while the member state is tasked with the implementation of those judgments.
The ECJ ruled that the lettori contracts must be one single open-ended relationship – since that is the rule for Italian workers. Article 26 splits the relationship into two denying rights established and ruled upon by the European Court of Justice in 2001 and 2006.
A judge in Pavia, on 1 February 2011, refused to apply the law and awarded a French citizen her full rights under EU law as interpreted by the ECJ.
Mr Berlusconi, in his numerous trials, has constantly complained that he is a victim of a politicised judiciary.
Article 26 seems to be the reverse – in which the government is attempting to thwart the rule of law, breach the Italian constitution, the Lisbon Treaty and the plain common sense of centuries of our legal tradition – that all citizens have a right to have their complaint judged by an independent magistrate in a court of law.
Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano promulgated the law on 30 December 2011 but only after adding a “critical comment” on Article 26.
His reservations need to be acted upon and soon.
Even in these times of budgetary constraint – it is not beyond the means or the wit of the Italian government to do the right thing and win back some confidence from its EU partners.
For a history of Italy’s denial of equal treatment, see link: A long fight for justice:
David Petrie, Verona 6 February 2011