The Political and Social Foundations
The Republican State and Political Democracy
The Constitution begins with Article 1 stating that ``Italy is a Republic'' and Article 139 reinforces this announcement
by decreeing that the republican form cannot be the object of constitutional change. The choice made by the people
through the referendum imposed on the state the character of a republic based on parliamentary democracy. Consequently
political and civil liberties were re-affirmed; the principles of parliamentary government abandoned under Fascism
were confirmed, as was the division of power established by the eighteenth-century declaration of rights. The republican
Constitution therefore founded a political and social order based on a plural democracy.
Of essential importance are the affirmation of the political economic and social rights and duties of the citizen,
the recognition of the role of political parties and trade unions, institutional pluralism, political and administrative
decentralization and protection of minorities. Not only are the essential principles of political democracy dealt
with but also those of economic and social democracy. The Constitution also sets out the means of achieving the
chosen plural democracy through political economic and social solidarity (Article 2) and the fundamental equality
of citizens (Article 3).
Popular Sovereignty and the Electorate
The Constitution provides all the fundamental institutions with a democratically representative base, according
to the precepts of parliamentary government as characterized by a relationship of trust between legislative and
executive powers. A similar choice features in other European constitutions drawn up after the Second World War
(as for example the French Constitution of 1946 and the founding law of the German Federal Republic in 1959).
The `government' of the Republic is thus formed by a system of equal constitutional elements: the President of
the Republic, Parliament, Government, Judiciary and Constitutional Court. The conformity of the law to the Constitution
may be subject to verification by the Constitutional Court, which was not provided for by the Statuto albertino.
The latter having been modified by ordinary parliamentary procedure.
The fount of sovereignty and therefore of constitutional power rests in the people. This form of political democracy
is confirmed in Article 1, second clause, of the Constitution. Consequently, the Italian people are the holders
of sovereign power, which they exercise both directly through voting in elections and referendums and indirectly
through institutional representation. Due to this essential principle of political democracy, the right to vote
assumes a decisive constitutional significance. By means of a universal, direct, secret vote the electoral body
selects political representatives who intervene directly whenever a referendum is proposed; the latter is used
for the abrogation of a law, constitutional modification or specified regional and local issues, which have seen
a notable expansion not always provided for by the Constitution.
The Constitution thus makes two essential provisions for the execution of popular sovereignty. First the exercise
of democratic representation in parliament, regional assemblies and local councils; second, participation through
referendums (or direct democracy). Democratic voting and elections are the key elements of political representation
and the foundation of legitimate power.
Equality and Solidarity between Citizens
The constitutional principle of equality among citizens has a double significance. On the one hand it provides
a legal confirmation of the equality of the Republic's citizens both where relations among them are concerned and
with the institutions of the State. On the other hand it establishes an actual duty for the public powers to remove
obstacles to economic and social equality; this allows for every citizen to have real civil dignity in the social
community, at work and in education so as to permit an active role in society, also through direct and personal
participation in public life.
In order to realize such an extensive undertaking, the Constitution obliges individual solidarity towards public
and collective enterprises and social relationships. Solidarity is expressed above all in the prompt undertaking
of lawful obligations and in the spontaneous and complete fulfillment of the required duties. Citizens are required
to give the necessary collaboration in achieving the priorities imposed by a democracy based on individual and
collective equality and civil progress. Here too can be seen the democratically-based social order that the Constitution
wished to reflect in the structure created after the fall of Fascism.
Protection of Minorities
Also in recognizing and protecting ethnic and religious minorities the Constitution marked a clear and definitive
break with Fascism. Provision was made both for safeguarding linguistic minorities and for allowing liberty of
religious worship in the eyes of the State.
Minority rights have been reinforced by way of regional autonomy and the foundation of the first five regions with
special statutus, in particular the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige, with its large German-speaking minority, and
Valle d'Aosta, with its French-speaking minority.
Relations between the State and the Catholic Church and Religious Liberty
The explicit reference in Article 7 of the Constitution to the Patti Lateranensi of 1929 between the Italian State
and Catholic Church safeguarded the relations between two ``independent and sovereign'' entities, which had already
been established by two pacts: an international treaty between the Holy See and Italy and a concordat to regulate
the `conditions of religion and the church in Italy'. From the time of its debate in the Assemblea Costituente,
Article 7 gave rise to a particular doctrinal and political issue.
The revision of the concordat through the co-operation of both parties took place recently and a new agreement
was reached in February 1984. It provides a new base for the relationships between Italian State and Catholic Church,
stimulated by the desire for religious freedom and leaving behind the formula of the ``catholic religion as the
official religion of the State''. The consequences of such a fundamental change produced a new atmosphere in the
relationships of the two parties.
The new concordat has also produced difficulties, including the troublesome questions of the financial treatment
of ecclesiastical goods and bodies and that of the teaching of the catholic religion in Italian schools. Both being
issues destined to stimulate lively interest for public opinion.
After the signing of this new concordat with the Catholic Church, the Italian State has reached agreement with
other religions (as the Waldensian Church) to ensure for them also the guarantees established by the Constitution.
Italy has declared herself opposed to `offensive war' fort the resolution of international disputes and recognizes
the legitimate rights of properly acknowledged peoples. The country's Constitution makes provision for the execution
of treaties agreed with foreign states, for associating internationally with other countries in the search for
peace, progress and justice and offers asylum in Italy to those unjustly persecuted in their own countries.
Foreigners in Italy have the same fundamental liberties and civil rights enjoyed by all persons, including those
relating to international acts and conventions that extend to non-citizens. In addition, the principle of `reciprocity'
is used for foreigners, whereby they are treated in law by the same means as their own country applies to Italian
Italy also provides asylum for foreigners deprived of democratic liberties in their own countries and does not
permit extradition for `political' offences. Italy belongs to the leading international organizations: the United
Nations Organization and its various agencies; International Labor Organization; North Atlantic Treaty Organization;
International Atomic Energy Agency; International Monetary Fund; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development;
and the Council of Europe. Of particular significance has been Italy's membership of the European communities:
the European Coal and Steel Community, instituted in Paris in 18-IV-1951; European Economic Community, instituted
in Rome in 1957, between Italy, France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, with the later addition
of the following six countries, Ireland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain and Portugal; and, finally,
Euratom or the European Atomic Energy Community. The European communities are aimed not only at liberalizing commerce
and opening up markets but also at the construction of a politically united Europe.
The international nature of many problems and the increasing economic and social dependence among States has led
to a general intensification of international relations and to common initiatives that are sometimes independent
of ideological divisions and political and military alliances. This trend towards the internationalization of problems
and solutions has been one in which Italy has participated actively.
Cultural and Social Promotion
One of the characteristics of the modern state is that of extending public interest, even in democratic regimes,
to sectors traditionally considered `private', such as the arts, entertainment, sport and culture in general. An
awareness for the `quality of life', besides covering such important aspects as the protection of the environment,
health care and civic education also extends to an active cultural and social promotion because this requires a
continuous and coherent effort backed by considerable finance that can only be supplied by the public sector. The
same Constitution anticipated some of these choices when it obliged the institutions to safeguard the nation's
countryside and historic and artistic heritage; assured liberty for the arts, science and education; and provided
health care for all those in need.
The State's social obligations are heavy and the cost is considerable. This is one of those challenges that the
modern state has accepted without always being in possession of sufficient funds to provide the necessary remedies.
In this area considerable contributions have been made by social bodies, volunteers, trade unions and professional
organizations. The outstanding problems are those of co-ordinating the efforts of the public and private sectors
and of making the best use of the human and economic resources available.