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Local self-government authority system under the Italian legislation

'Effetti del buon governo sulla città e sul contado', particolare - Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1340)‘The Republic consists of municipalities, provinces, metropolitan cities, regions and the State. Municipalities, provinces, metropolitan cities and regions are autonomous entities with their own statutes, powers and functions according to the principles defined in the constitution’. This is the framework of the Italian legal system laid down in article 114 of the Constitution (Title V, Part II) as amended by the reform carried out in 2001 (constitutional law no. 3 dated 18th October 2001), which redefined the Italian institutions’ set-up and relations according to the principles of autonomy and subsidiarity.

In accordance with the new provisions – adopted following the favourable outcome of a referendum on constitutional law (referendum dossier) – pluralism has been fully recognized and a polycentric legal system has been set up, providing for a sharing of the legislative power between the State and the Regions, whereas local self-government authorities are assigned administrative power, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, under which decisions relating to local communities must be adopted, when possible, by the level of government closest to citizens.

Central government may substitute regions’, metropolitan cities’, provincies’ and municipalities’ bodies only in case of violation of laws, international treaties, EU legislation or in case of danger for public safety and security, for the State’s legal unity and essential standards of public services related to civil and social rights.

Municipalities, provinces and metropolitan cities are granted organisational autonomy to exercise their functions through the adoption of statutes providing for fundamental rules on organisation, bodies’ responsibilities and forms of citizen guarantee and participation.
The fundamental functions performed by local authorities continue to be regulated by State legislation to ensure the system unity and balance.

The constitutional law of 2001 has completed the reform process of local self-government authorities started by the adoption of Law 142/90, later merged into a consolidated law on local authorities of 2000 (legislative decree no. 267/2000).

The most remarkable aspects introduced by the reform are the following:

- local authorities are vested with legislative power in compliance with the provisions laid down in the Constitution;
- municipalities and the other local authorities are identified as first holders of the administrative functions, which they may regulate of their own in compliance with the provisions laid down in the Constitution;
- removal of legitimacy controls over documents issued by local authorities.

The self-government system will be soon governed by an organic set of provisions following the adoption of the Charter of Local Self-government, currently under way by the Parliament. The main purpose of this legislation, intended for redefining the whole matter, is to eliminate duplication of functions with a better quality of services and cost-saving as a result.


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Ministero dell'Interno