HUI 216 - Unit 2, Topics 0-10
"Overview of Italian civilization"

Andrea Fedi

2.0 Periodization

[Notes] — We can simplify more-than-2000 years of Italian civilization by grouping historical, social and cultural events. Will make references to five major periods:

  1. The Latin or Roman era (753 BC-476 AD)
  2. The Middle Ages (476 AD-1375)
  3. Humanism and the Renaissance (1376-1550)
  4. Modernity (1551-1861)
  5. The last 150 years (1861-2010)

Each of these periods covers several centuries and includes a variety of cultures as well as different sociopolitical structures. Therefore, we must be aware that this periodization sometimes oversimplifies the developments of Italian civilization. However, it remains useful when trying to follow major trends and cultural patterns, or when trying to sort out and absorb information related to a variety of topics.

2.1 Ab urbe condita

[Notes] — Around the year 753 BC, Rome was founded, and the first political format of its state was the monarchy. Apr. 21, 753 is the exact date quoted by the ancient historians. Archeological excavations have confirmed that Rome was founded, or grew up to become a more relevant settlement, during the 8th century BC.
During the years of the fascist dictatorship (1922-1943/1945), Italians celebrated this date, designated with the official, almost mystical name of "Natali di Roma" (=the birth of Rome; Natale, in Italian, is also the word used for Christmas).
In ancient Rome the years were often counted from this date, whenever the name of a leader (king, consul, emperor) was not used as a temporal reference, as shown in the following examples:

  • "under the consulate of Appius Claudius Sabinus and T. Quinctius Capitolinus"
  • "283 ab urbe condita (from the foundation of the city)" (=471 BC)
Look at Emperor Hadrian's golden coin celebrating the 874th birthday of the city of Rome (=121 AD).
Look at the coin struck under Emperor Philip the Arab (248 AD), which celebrated the beginning of the second millennium of Rome.
Watch pictures of a variety of Roman coins among those sold online at www.cngcoins.com.

509 BC-1453 AD

[Notes] — 509 BC is the traditional date for the institution of the Roman Republic, the date accepted and passed on by all Roman historians.
27 BC: the Roman Empire is born. Italy was not unified politically and administratively until the beginning of the Empire.
476 AD: the official date for the end of the Roman Empire (in Italy and in the Western provinces of the Empire)
1453 AD: when Byzantium (founded by the Romans on the name of Constantinople) falls in the hands of the Turks, the Byzantine Empire (formerly known as Eastern Roman Empire) ceases to exist.

2.2 The Middle Ages

[Notes] — The first period of the Middle Ages goes from the 4th to the 10th century.
The most important historic developments during that period were the collapse of the Roman Empire and the introduction of Feudalism. Feudalism was the socio-political structure/organization created to make the best use of the limited resources available to the local communities, was first priority was defending the residents from those sudden, repeated attacks by the so-called barbarians, by other semi-nomadic groups (Magyars, Vikings, Normans), and by Muslims.
It was an era of constant wars, fought frequently and for short periods in different regions of Western/Southern Europe. Chivalry was the military and political institution created to cope with that particular situation.

11th-14th century

[Notes] — From the 11th to 14th century we have the second period of the Middle Ages in Italy.
After the year 1000 the Italian regions located North of Rome saw the emergence of dozens of small city-states, structured as republics with a limited democracy dominated by merchants. The area that best exemplifies this phenomenon is Northern Tuscany.
In the South of Italy, which was soon unified and eventually became the Kingdom of Naples, a similar kind of a political and social fragmentation was produced by the strength of feudal structures and customs (which in some areas were preserved well into the 19th century). Many small districts in the South were administered by members of the nobility: each one of them used slightly different rules of justice, implemented different strategies and administrative policies. The economy for the most part remained local, with little or no commerce and trading outside each district. A partial but relevant exception is represented by cities on the shores of Campania, Apulia, and Sicily.

Medieval revival

[Notes] — Pseudo-medieval architecture and the politics of restoration, during the 19th and 20th centuries, offer us a glimpse of the contents and ideology behind the modern rediscovery and revival of medieval culture.
The success of Romanticism in Italy, and its never-ending fascination with medieval history (a phenomenon also known as medievalism), prompted the multiplication of architectural projects that tried to bring back in fashion the gothic style, or the more austere style of Romanesque architecture. It also promoted the construction or reconstruction of watch-towers, pseudo-medieval palaces and castles throughout Western Europe. Consider the example of the house of Dante in downtown Florence, built entirely in the early 1900s, on the grounds where Dante's real house had been.

Preservation, restoration

[Notes] — The predilection for medieval architecture was carried over from the 19th to the 20th century.
Consider the case of San Bartolomeo in Pantano (St. Bartholomew in the swamp, Pistoia), a 12th-century church in the town of Pistoia, whose interior was stripped of baroque altars to restore the alleged pure Romanesque look of medieval times.
In the same city of Pistoia, the Palazzo dei Vescovi (Palace of the Bishops) was heavily modified to bring it back to the way it was during the Middle Ages, thus erasing the memory of the many additions and changes made throughout the centuries.
Watch a slideshow on Italy's medieval past, lived, restored and revisited.

Neo-Guelphism

[Notes] — During the 19th century, pro-Papacy political proposals received new attention in Italy, thanks to intellectuals such as Vincenzo Gioberti, author of Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani (=The civic and moral primacy of the Italians, 1842-43).
Gioberti emphasized and popularized the political myth of Italy's primacy: after leading the world twice, in ancient and in medieval times (thanks to the Roman Empire first, and then thanks to the Catholic Church), Italy could do so a third time, being a model nation in a civic and moral sense.
Gioberti set forth a Neo-Guelph program that called for partial democratic reforms and the institution of a federation among the existing Italian states, with the Pope as president (more details inside the source of these notes).

Maurice Hewlett

[Notes] — Anglo-American travel writers from the late 1800s and the early 1900s, such as Maurice Hewlett, moved away from the emphasis on picturesque typical of earlier travel books, to emphasize a more exotic, quasi-scientific element in the descriptions of Italy. Hewlett claimed in his travelogues to have found in Tuscany not just the ruins or the fading memories of the past, but also powerful evidence and living traces of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Tuscany was presented as the perfect 'laboratory' where the informed observer could rediscover what life was really like in a pre-modern civilization.

Land that time forgot

[Notes] — Certain areas of Tuscany, inside 19th-century travel books, were associated with a peculiar kind of 'exotic' exploration of history, because of the following:

  • their medieval origins as independent city-states (comuni)
  • the long-lasting fights with their neighbors, and their rebellions against Florentine domination after the partial unification that happened by the end of the Renaissance
  • the alleged lack of modern progress/industrial development
  • the reduced social mobility which seemed to produce a kind of stagnation inside the local communities.

The Road in Tuscany

[Notes] — What you find here are passages from Maurice Hewlett's book The Road in Tuscany (1904).

Kinship? Community?

[Notes] — Another passage from Maurice Hewlett's book The Road in Tuscany (1904).

Selective gaze

[Notes] — James Buzard, the author of The Beaten Track. European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways to Culture, 1800-1918 (1993), aptly talks about a process of "strategic omission" inside the tradition of nineteenth-century "picturesque seeing." He wrote: "Everyday features of the visited place (populations included) either fell cleanly away from view or arranged themselves as part of the spectacle." "The gradual improvements in standard of living, the mundane political struggles, the ordinary commerce, and all the many other unpicturesque pursuits were what travelers sought to elide from the view they savored" (PMLA 34-35).

2.3 Humanism

[Notes] — Humanism (1375-1475) is characterized by the systematic, rigorous study of classicism. This is the period during which modern disciplines such as philology and archeology were born.
Humanists and Renaissance scholars relied on systematic studies and technical reports on the past to formulate ideas and plans about the future: consider the example of Raphael's "Letter to Pope Leo X on the monuments of ancient Rome," which includes a catalogue of the classical remains found in the city of Rome, and indicates the vital nature of those remains for the political rebirth of Italian society; or Palladio's analysis of the essential elements of classical architecture (look at some pages from a 1650 French translation), which provides the basic formulae for the construction of neo-classical buildings.
During this period we have the birth of the first museums, and the creation of the first important private libraries, with tens of thousands of books (whereas the typical medieval collection of a single individual might have had at best a few hundred manuscripts).
A new education curriculum was introduced, in which literature and history became primary assets, to be used to form mature citizens, and to teach from about those constants that exist in society and in human nature.

The Signoria

[Notes] — The Signoria (Signore=Lord) was a socio-political structure typical of this period.
A family of patricians or the city's wealthiest family of merchants would take charge in the administration of an Italian city-state.
A slow process of unification brought neighboring city-states under one ruler, one government.
That was the case for the communes of Northern Tuscany, unified under Florence and the leadership of the Medici family.
In a similar fashion, the communes of Veneto were incorporated in the Republic of Venice, and the communes of Lombardy had to submit to Milan and the Viscontis or the Sforzas.

The Renaissance (1476-1550)

[Notes] — The long series of wars fought in Italy between 1494 and 1559 were the direct results of the political fragmentation shown by this map.
The immediate causes for the wars were created by the slow process of unification described in the previous slide, which produced local conflicts and diplomatic incidents at the national and international level.
This process of unification was hindered and then eventually brought to a halt entirely by the military involvement of France, Spain and the Empire. The prosperous mercantile economy of Italy, combined with the inherent weakness that resulted from political fragmentation and constant disagreements, made Italy an ideal target, rich in cash (gold and silver), and unable to create or maintain a stable alliance and stop the foreign invaders.
After a long series of costly wars, the South of Italy, Lombardy and a small portion of Southern Tuscany fell in the hands of Spain, while small portions of the Northeast and of the Northwest went to France and Germany, respectively. By the time the wars were over, the global economy had changed dramatically, because of the growing relevance of the Central American and South American colonies. With the introduction of new routes to India, Indonesia and China, the Mediterranean sea, controlled by Italian merchants, lost its central role in the commercial development of Europe.
The political and military events of this period had repercussions that lasted for over three centuries. Once many Italian states submitted directly or indirectly to foreign powers, it became more difficult to create a modern unified nation in Italy.
Bringing Italy under one ruler and one government, later on, required a great deal of diplomatic maneuvering, together with military actions and popular insurrections.

2.4 Modernity: 1551-1700

[Notes] — The periods indicated by the cultural labels of Mannerism and Baroque (from 1551 to 1700), were characterized by the tendence to break away from the systematic imitation/emulation of classical standards that have become popular during the Renaissance.
The cultural and linguistic influence of France and Spain is more evident during this time, to the point that the nationalist approach to culture followed by late 19th-century Italian scholars prompted negative stereotyping of the whole period.
The study of Machiavellism evolved into the set of political theories known as Reason of State, or raison d'Ètat.

Modernity: 1701-1861

[Notes] — The period of the Enlightenment (1701-1815), which opened the way to the French Revolution and found its dramatic ending with the Napoleonic wars, saw the vanishing of the Italian leadership from the European cultural scene (with the partial exception of the arts and music, especially the opera).
The problems related to the diminished role of the Italian commercial economy on the European and global scene were compounded by the country's slow rate of industrialization, and the lack of a modern administrative infrastructure, which Napoleon's reforms, towards the end of this period, could not entirely remedy.
The cultural revolutions produced by Romanticism, in the case of Italy, intertwined with the revolutionary process of political unification, known as Risorgimento (1816-61). Italian writers and intellectuals emphasized the psychological development of the individual, as a basic step towards the development of a new class of mature citizens, extending to the lower middle classes, democratic society. A good example of the ideology of this period would be Alessandro Manzoni's The betrothed (first published in 1827; the second, much revised edition came out in 1840).

2.5 The last 150 years

[Notes] — In 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was established under the Savoia family, formerly Dukes of Piedmont and Kings of Sardinia.
Look at a map of Italy (1859-1870), which shows exactly when each region or area became part of the new Italian State.
1871: Rome becomes Italy's third and final choice for the state capital (after Turin and Florence). In 1870 the city had been taken from the Papacy during a quick war.
Many Italians felt that the process of unification was more similar to a process of conquest and assimilation. The new local administrators (often sent from the North, speaking a different dialect) were seen as representatives of yet another 'foreign' government. Many citizens failed to identify with the goals and the concerns of the new national State, and never developed a strong sense of loyalty to the new national institutions.

World Wars I-II

[Notes] — World War I (the dates for the Italian involvement in this war are 1915-1918) was the first real chance for millions of Italians from the various regions to share crucial experiences. Like military draft, which involved a process of relocation and forced separation from the recruit's family and local community, the war offered many Italians the opportunity to appreciate the extent of their cultural/linguistic differences. The desire for the concrete realization of common national goals, and the sense of spiritual connectedness created by modern mass politics, were key elements in fascist ideology and in its propaganda between 1922 and 1943/1945.
In 1919, the process of unification of the Italian State is completed, with the peace treaties assigning to the Kingdom of Italy regions of the Italian northeast and parts of former Yugoslavia (see map).
Italy's borders changed again after World War II, when small territories at the Eastern and Western borders were assigned to former Yugoslavia (see also the creation of the Free Territory of Trieste, 1947-1954), and to France.

The Republic (1946-)

[Notes] — In 1946, Italy became a Republic after an institutional referendum in which the monarchy lost by a relatively narrow margin (approximately 2 million votes).
Since it was clear to the founding fathers of the Republic that local identities and regional cultures had never lost their strength, the Constitution of the Italian Republic, introduced officially in 1948, called for the various regions be given ample autonomy, with particular reference to Sardinia, and to Sicily in the South, Valle d'Aosta in the Northwest, and Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige in the Northeast. Those five regions where mentioned inside article 116 of the Italian Constitution, entitled "Special Forms of Autonomy" (see below).
The actual implementation of the decentralization implied in the principles of the Constitution has taken 60 years.

2.6 Local Autonomy

[Notes] — Article 114 of the Italian constitution, describing the administrative subdivisions of the Italian state.

Article 116

[Notes] — Here is the full text of Article 116 [Special Forms of Autonomy]:
(1) According to their special statutes adopted by constitutional law, particular forms and conditions of autonomy are enjoyed by Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Southern Tyrol/Trentino, and the Aosta Valley.
(2) The region Southern Tyrol/Trentino consists of the autonomous provinces Trento and Bolzano.
(3) Upon the initiative of the region concerned, after consultation of local administrations, state law may assign further particular forms and conditions of autonomy to other regions according to the principles laid down in Art. 119.

Article 117

[Notes] — Use the link posted above to get a better idea of Article 117 [State and Regional Legislative Power] of the Italian constitution.

Federalism

[Notes] — Between 2001 and 2009 the Italian Parliament took important steps (including an initiative to reform the Constitution) to introduce a more defined form of federalism in Italy.
The 20 Italian Regions (each organized with a Regional Council, a Governor, and regional laws) now have more power and more control over internal as well as national matters.
In 2009 a new law established the basic principles of fiscal devolution (see the following articles for details: Italy’s fiscal devolution, or The Italian Road to Fiscal Federalism). "Under the bill, the three levels of subnational government — regions, provinces and communes — will share a quota of income tax and of the value added tax (VAT) with the central government."

The Northern League

[Notes] — The Northern League is a political party officially founded in 1991 (even though its earliest forms of political representation date back to the early 1980s). It promotes the idea of an Italian federation (based on a political process known as devolution, in which a central government transfers some of its powers to local administrations).
Umberto Bossi is the founder/leader of the Lega Nord.
According to the party's political agenda, Northern Italian regions should be largely independent from the central government (with particular reference to taxation and tax redistribution, education, immigration, law enforcement).
The Northern regions should be allowed to introduce tougher measures against illegal immigrants, and other policies introduced in the name of the 'protection' and advancement of Northern Italian culture.

The 2005 proposal

[Notes] — These were the principles to be included in Art. 57 of the new constitution, according to a 2005 proposal by the Northern League (the proposed Constitutional amendments were never approved or implemented):
the Senate becomes federal, with electoral districts based on the 20 regions of Italy
the election of the senators is linked to the elections of the regional and provincial councils
the number of senators assigned to each region is linked to the number of residents
no region can have less than 6 senators, with the exception of Molise (2) and Valle d'Aosta (1)
representatives of the regions and local provinces are admitted into the Senate, without full voting rights.

The 2005 proposal

[Notes] — These were the provisions of Art. 83 in the 2005 Reform of Italian constitution proposed by the Northern league:
the President of the Italian Republic is elected by an Assembly of the Republic, composed by
all members of the parliament
the heads of the regions and provinces
regional delegates: 2 per region (1 in the case of Valle d'Aosta); each region is also assigned 1 delegate for every million residents.

Images of devolution

[Notes] — Bilingual street signs have become popular, especially in those districts controlled by the Northern League. Whereas traditional signs were written in Italian and French, German or Slovene, the new bilingual signs offer local toponyms in Italian and in a local dialect.
A quick examination of the political posters used by the Northern League during their 2007 and 2008 campaigns allows us to understand the force of their federalist ideology.

2.7 EU (1945-1959)

[Notes] — The origins of the European Union go back to the postwar period.
In 1951 six European countries, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the first economic treaty.
Similar treaties would follow, in 1957 (Treaties of Rome), 1962, 1968, etc.
The postwar treaties we are inspired by the great desire for peace shared by those European countries which fought on either side, suffered a great deal during WWII, and gained little or nothing from the war (see the reference to the "bitter experiences" in the Preamble of the 2004 constitution of the EU).
The main idea behind the first European treaties was that increased cooperation in key areas such as the the economy, defense and diplomacy would bring those European countries closer to each other, reinforcing friendship and collaboration, and thus preventing the recurrence of violence and war on the European continent.
The more than 60 years of peace in Western Europe can be explained, at least partially, with that strategy, especially when one looks back and considers the number of wars fought in Europe between the Middle Ages and the end of the second millennium.
Notice that Great Britain is the most important Western European country missing from the list of founders of the European Union. The reason for this absence was not only the traditional isolationist attitude of the British, but also the fact that Great Britain, at that time, still considered itself a superpower, having been instrumental in bringing the war against the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) to an end.
Also remember that in the early 1950s Great Britain was still a colonial empire, which had just began the process of turning its colonies into independent states or independent partners of the Commonwealth.

1973-95: EU15

[Notes] — To have a better idea of the growth of the European Union, look at this animated historical map (1952-2007).
1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the founder states in the European Economic Community (EEC).
1981: Greece joins the EEC.
1986: Spain and Portugal join the Union, after the demise of their fascist regimes.
1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden are accepted into the European Union, after the end of the Cold War.

2003-07: EU25, EU27

[Notes] — 2004: following the 2003 approval by the European Parliament, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak and Slovenia join the EU (EU 25).
2007: Bulgaria and Romania become members of the current political configuration of the European Union, the so-called EU 27.
The latest applicant countries are Croatia, Macedonia, Turkey.

The Euro (€)

[Notes] — "The euro (€) is the single currency shared by 16 of the European Union's Member States, which together make up the euro area: 329 million EU citizens now use it as their currency" (European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs).
1993: the single European market was officially established, following the plan of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty
1999: the euro was launched as a virtual currency. In other terms, in 1999 you could've had euros inside your bank account, but not in your wallet.
2002: euros began to circulate in the 12 participating member states (the UK, Denmark and Sweden opted not to enter the euro area), while the original national currencies were quickly phased out

The Euro today

[Notes] — 2007-2009: Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia joined the Euro area.
Look at the euro notes, which intentionally avoided reproducing exactly any structure or landscape in Europe, while being suggestive of European styles.
Look at the current exchange rates published every day by the European Central Bank.

"The euro is the second most actively traded currency in foreign exchange marketspity it is a counterpart in around 40% of the daily transactions... At the end of 2006, more than one-quarter of the global foreign exchange holdings were being held in euros" (The euro in the world)
The euro is also used as an official or de facto currency by several countries outside the euro area.

The Constitution: TCE

[Notes] — Rome, 2004: the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), simply referred to as the European Constitution, is signed by representatives of the EU 25.
Look the corresponding article on Wikipedia or the page on institutional reform from the EU official website, Europa.
2005: following the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands, a two-year period of reflection is announced by EU leaders.
2007: the intergovernmental conference announced in June of that year draws a Reform Treaty, whose final text is adopted in Lisbon on December 13, 2007.
2009: the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all 27 member states according to their own constitutional rules (through a referendum or through a parliamentary vote), and becomes official on December 1, 2009.

2.8 European Council

[Notes] — The European Council"defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union": you can watch its meetings online.
The various European governments are represented in this Council, whose decisions are made in conjunction with the various governments and the central European authorities (the European Commission, the European Parliament).
Spain currently holds the presidency for the first half of 2010 (each member state holds the presidency for 6 months). Italy held the presidency during the 2nd semester of 2003.

The European Commission

[Notes] — The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union, with the power to initiate legislation. "The Commission's job is to represent the common European interest to all the EU countries. To allow it to play its role as 'guardian of the treaties' and defender of the general interest, the Commission also has the right of initiative in the lawmaking process. This means that it proposes legislative acts for the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to adopt.
The Commission is also responsible for putting the EU's common policies (like the common agricultural policy and the growth and jobs strategy) into practice and manage the EU's budget and programmes."
This institution is where the actual power and authority are, and where all the important policies of the last two decades originated. The Commission participates in the decision-making process by presenting proposals for European law, by overseeing the correct implementation of the Treaties and of European law, and by managing funds.
The current President of the Commission is José Manuel Barroso, from Portugal.
The former President, with a 5-year mandate that expired in 2004, was Romano Prodi, who has served twice as Prime Minister of Italy (in 1996-1998, and in 2006-2008).

Courts, Ombudsman

[Notes] — The Court of Justice of the European Union deals with the Union's laws and regulations. It "reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union, ensures that the Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties, and interprets European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals. The Court thus constitutes the judicial authority of the European Union and, in cooperation with the courts and tribunals of the Member States, it ensures the uniform application and interpretation of European Union law."
The Court of Auditors is responsible for reviewing the administration of funds by the various European agencies.
The European

Ombudsman deals with complaints from citizens, especially regarding the improper use of European funds.

European Investment Bank

[Notes] — The European Investment Bank uses EU funds to support a balanced economic development within the Union.
The principle behind the subsidies for agriculture and other areas of Europe's economy (subsidies which made both Clinton and Bush complain about unfair competition) is that the various European countries cannot be equal partners in the Union and cannot work towards the realization of common social and political goals if their economies grow at vastly different rates.
Many of the funds that are available to support local initiatives in less advanced areas (such as Southern Italy) came from the introduction of the single European currency.
In the past all European countries (including Italy) used to have large amounts of gold and dollars which they kept as reserve and used occasionally to stabilize their national currency.
Once the central European bank was created, a central European reserve was instituted to support the euro, and tens of billions of dollars could be released from the national reserves.

The European Central Bank

[Notes] —

Union? Federation?

[Notes] — Given the long and varied history of the various member states of the EU, one cannot expect Europe to become, over a short period of time, a federation similar to the United States, i.e. a political entity in which the various state institutions and the central federal government are tightly connected and work side-by-side in many fields, often act almost in unison, in spite of occasional clashes.
It is also easy to notice how many Americans share customs and social practices (the so-called American way of life), creating a common ground somewhat more visible and relevant than anything existing within the EU.
However, we cannot underestimate the unifying power of economic policies, and of so powerful a concern such as that of security.
The real measure of the appreciation of the EU by European governments or single parties/politicians has been the issue of voting, more specifically, whether decisions taken inside the European agencies or institutions should be supported by a majority of votes (a simple majority, or a two-thirds majority), or by unanimity, which would mean that any member state would have the power to veto any decision, slowing down the process of unification and reform to a crawl.

Italy's positions

[Notes] — Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and most members of his right-wing coalition have not been hiding their "euro-skepticism".
They have been hesitant to support European Union initiatives (in fields like justice, the budget, immigration) that were taking some of the decisional power away from the Italian government.
Former President of European commission and former Prime Minister Romano Prodi was in favor of majority decisions, thinking that no state inside the EU should be able to stop or sabotage its political expansion.

2.9 Union of minorities

[Notes] —Excerpts from a speech given by Romano Prodi on Feb. 28, 2002: "[...] we must not forget the unique nature of European integration.
The European Union is unique in that it is a union of peoples and States.
The real aim is not to build a superstate.
Why do so now, at a time when classical State models are increasingly incapable of managing globalization?"

Supranational democracy

[Notes] — "The real aim, a combination of realism and vision, is to continue developing this unique structure towards an increasingly advanced supranational democracy. A European democracy based on the peoples and the States of Europe.
To do so, we have to adapt the major principles underlying our national democratic traditions to the unique structure of Europe. These are
the separation of powers
majority voting
public debate and a vote by the people's elected representatives on all legal texts
approval of taxes by Parliament."

Decision-making

[Notes] — "The Union's decision-making system needs to be overhauled.
We need new, simpler and more transparent procedures for taking and implementing decisions.
Tasks and responsibilities currently assumed at Union level can and must be reviewed and devolved to the Member States.
The Commission will not shirk its responsibilities and is ready to play its part, to change in accordance with Europe's new needs.

European Commission

[Notes] — "It is ready to redefine its own tasks to take on new responsibilities in fields where the future of Europe is at stake.
It is also ready to give up part of its powers if this contributes to the greater common good.
The Commission is the guardian of the Treaties.
This means ensuring that the European Union evolves in a way that is true to itself. It does not mean preserving at all cost what time calls on us to change."

Genuine reform

[Notes] — "While recognizing and respecting the great cultural and spiritual traditions that are at the heart of Europe, we must work to bring about a genuine reform of the Union.
We must move towards an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe because young Europeans will be unable to identify with a limited, straitjacketed project.
We must share sovereignty if we are able to exercise it in any real sense (as we have done in the case of the currency).
We must recognize the need for institutions which are responsible for the general interest."

Not an alliance

[Notes] — "We must ensure that all States are treated equally.
Europe is not an alliance. It is the shared home of the citizens of Europe. It is the new protagonist of the new century.
For this reason it cannot be based on the laws of the few largest, strongest or most senior members of the European club.
The European Union is a union of minorities where no State may have the right to impose itself on others."

2.10 Conclusion

[Notes] — It will take more than a few generations for any change to affect the various national identities.
Europeans will continue to have a dual or a triple identity, which for many areas might be not Spanish and European, or Italian and European, but rather Basque and European, or Venetian and Italian and European.
The EU has embraced multilingualism: there are 27 member states, and 23 official languages.
Linguistic diversity is protected by the European charter of fundamental rights (signed in Nice, France, in 2000).
Explore the Europa languages portal.

The End

Pupo, Emanuele Filiberto and Luca Canonici at Sanremo (Lapresse)