1. Essential Facts and Figures
1.2 South Tyrol2. Autonomy in the Context of the State Structure3. Establishment and Implementation of Autonomy
3.1. The Road towards Autonomy
3.2. Trust-building and Bilateral Negotiations
3.3. Implementation through Special Bodies and Procedures
3.4. The Role of the Italian Constitutional Court4. Legal Basis of Autonomy5. Autonomous Institutions
5.1. The Provincial Council
5.2. The Provincial Government
5.3. The President6. Autonomous Powers7. Financial Arrangements8. Relations with the Government9. Inter-group Relations within the Autonomous Entity
9.1. Employment in Public Administration
9.2. Language Use in Administration and Judiciary
9.3. Education10. “Quasi-citizenship” through Special Rights11. General Assessment and Outlook
Recommended citation: Elisabeth Alber and Carolin Zwilling, "South Tyrol", Online Compendium Autonomy Arrangements in the World, January 2016, at www.world-autonomies.info.
clear majority of Italy’s population of almost 59.4 million according
to the 2011 census are Italian-speakers. This does not mean, however,
that the country is from a linguistic point of view entirely
homogeneous. Even though Italian is the mother tongue for roughly 93% of
the population, there are several other languages, many of which are
also legally recognized. At state level, this recognition is conferred
to Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French,
Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian.
At the subnational level, co-official status is granted to French in
the Aosta Valley, Slovene in the provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and
Udine, German in South Tyrol and Ladin in parts of both South Tyrol and
the neighbouring Trentino. While language is defined by
of the Italian Constitution as the sole distinctive feature for
identifying minorities, the legal instruments for their protection vary
substantially. These instruments have in common that they, as a rule,
follow the territorial principle, but they differ considerably regarding
the level of protection.
1.2 South Tyrol
Geographically, South Tyrol borders Austria and Switzerland, and has a population of 518,518.
Almost one third of South Tyroleans live in urban areas (with 102,869
persons inhabiting the predominantly Italian-speaking capital of
Bolzano/Bozen). According to the linguistic declaration at the last census in 2011, 69.41% are German, 26.06% Italian and 4.53% Ladin speakers (out of 453,272 valid linguistic declarations of affiliations).
quite recent phenomenon with indirect repercussions on the autonomy
arrangement is increased immigration to South Tyrol. The area’s
flourishing economy has turned South Tyrol from a place where people
emigrated from (until the late 1980s) to a place where people immigrate
to. As to 31 December 2012, 42,522 persons having foreign citizenship
are residing in South Tyrol.
In short, and with regard to the country of origin of immigrants, prior
to 1994 a consistent number of German speakers moved to South Tyrol
(from Germany and Austria) and a small number of persons from North
Africa. In the period 1994-2006, a consistent number of refugees from
former Yugoslavia settled in South Tyrol. From 2003 onwards, immigration
from Eastern Europe became more relevant and in the last several years
the number of immigrants from North Africa and Latin America has also
increased. Important to note is the fact that the increasing amount of
foreigners in South Tyrol today is double the number of Ladin speakers,
challenging thus some aspects of the institutionalised ethnic governance
This criterion and the very existence of strong
minority groups were of significant importance in 1948 when the
Constitution makers opted for a regional system with special and
ordinary regions. After World War II, the Constitution makers faced a
complex situation with regard to regional diversities that had always
been very strong in Italy but were repressed by the fascist regime
(1922-1943). International obligations, claims for secession and
geographical reasons caused the Constituent Assembly to opt for an
asymmetric regional system. With regard to the northernmost Italian
territory (the Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol),
international obligations imposed by the Paris Peace Treaty (1946)
regarding the protection of the South Tyrolean German speakers had to be
taken into account. Secessionist claims had to be circumvented in the
case of the small Alpine region Aosta Valley, where local authorities
had already in 1943 elaborated a plan for a strong self-government, and
in the case of Sicily, which had elaborated its own Constitution in 1946
before the Italian Constitution was drafted. Sardinia was to be given a
special status because of its isolated position in geographic terms.
All this necessitated the establishment of a regional system. In order
to avoid an overly strong asymmetry between these special territories
and the rest of the country, twenty regions were established
altogether (Article 131 ItalConst), five
of which were endowed with a higher degree of autonomy: Trentino-Alto
Adige/South Tyrol, Aosta Valley, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and
Thus, next to Italy’s
de facto asymmetries (socio-economic frameworks and political attitudes), the Italian Constitution mandates
de jure differentiation among its 20
constituent units (five special and fifteen ordinary regions). In
practice, the small Alpine autonomous regions inhabited by linguistic
minorities – Aosta Valley and Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol – have for
a long time been the only areas where autonomous powers were strongly
claimed and systematically implemented.
Within this first phase of Italian regionalism, the special regions had
their own basic law approved as constitutional law of the State
guaranteeing them – contrary to the 15 ordinary regions
– far-reaching autonomy and a bilateral relationship with the Italian
State, bypassing the national government with regard to the
implementation of the provisions enshrined in their basic laws. This not
only explains the different development concerning regional
self-government between ordinary and special regions, but also the fact
that special regions themselves developed differently. With regard to
South Tyrol, this first phase of Italian regionalism coincided with the
period of difficult and strenuous negotiations at the highest level
(claims for the recognition of German speakers’ rights by means of a
strong autonomy model at the provincial instead of regional level).
from 1972, an increase in the regional powers gradually narrowed the
gap between ordinary and special regions, leading to a system of
This second phase of Italian regionalism coincided with further
institutional negotiations between South Tyrol’s political elite, the
SVP, and the Italian State, aiming at the implementation of the
provisions enshrined in the ASt. Italy’s constitutional reform of 2001
profoundly changed the relationship between the different levels of
government and reduced the disparities between special and ordinary
regions, giving the latter an amount of power analogous to that enjoyed
from the very beginning by the special regions.
in institutional terms there are still profound differences between the
two types of regions. The ‘specialty’ of Italy’s autonomous regions and
the two autonomous provinces of Bolzano/Bozen and Trento rests on four
their basic law has constitutional rank;
the scope of legislative and administrative autonomy has been broad since 1948;
the special procedures and arrangements guarantee, among other things, financial autonomy;
the bilateral relationship and specific cooperation mechanisms with the central government, based on parity.
differing interpretations and exercises of the autonomy led to a
differentiation in the scope of autonomy powers between special regions.
In practice, special regions in the North profited from the
legal-institutional framework by continuously enlarging the scope of
their autonomous powers, while special regions in the South did not
succeed in doing so. The parallel empowerment of ordinary regions has
led to some Northern ordinary regions currently being more developed in
terms of autonomous powers (though technically speaking, their regional
basic laws lack constitutional rank, and are as such weaker).
regard to South Tyrol, this third ongoing phase of Italian regionalism –
the further empowerment and differentiation of ordinary regions –
coincides with the quest for a new power-sharing model. The minority
conflict has been settled by transforming the initial emphasis on
minority protection for just German speakers into a system of complex
rules that governs the cohabitation of three linguistic groups (German,
Italian and Ladin), including also ‘newcomers’ who – for instrumental
purposes as to the functioning of the power-sharing system – affiliate
with one of the linguistic groups. Legally, especially in the last
fifteen years, several power provisions enshrined in the ASt have been
both further extended and considerably altered by means of enactment
decrees elaborated within the joint commissions.
Politically, the ruling SVP applies the formula of ‘dynamic autonomy’.
Accordingly, the development of South Tyrol’s autonomous powers is often
a consequence of political constellations at the national level.
Currently, both the formula of ‘full autonomy’ and the formula of a
strong cross-border European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino are
gaining momentum within the province’s political discourse, both as a
response to wrongly imposed top-down spending curbs and austerity
measures (Alber and Zwilling 2012) and as a governance technique aiming at
paving the way for a revision of the current Autonomy Statute
3.1. The Road towards Autonomy
current territories of South Tyrol and Trentino were from the 14th
century part of the crown Province of Tyrol within the Habsburg empire.
While in South Tyrol there was a clear predominance of German and Ladin
speakers, neighbouring Southern Trentino was almost entirely
Italian-speaking. Although one of US President Woodrow Wilson’s 14
points foresaw the, “readjustment of the frontiers of Italy along
clearly recognizable lines of nationality”, the territory up to the
Brenner Pass was ceded to Italy after World War I. Both Trentino and
South Tyrol were annexed to Italy with the Peace Treaty of St. Germain
in 1919. Initially, the German speakers in South Tyrol were promised
territorial and cultural autonomy. When the fascist regime came to power
however, any such efforts were stopped. From 1922 onwards, the
German-speaking minority suffered from repressive measures in all
aspects of life. This led to the ‘Italianisation’ of the entire public
via industrialisation and migration from the
South, but also to the prohibition of German language courses taught
privately, as well as to the artificial introduction of surnames and
toponomy. In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini agreed upon the so-called ‘final
solution’ of the South Tyrolean conflict (the ‘Option’): accordingly,
the German speakers were forced to choose between keeping their identity
by moving to the German Reich and thus giving up their home, and
keeping their home by renouncing the German language and Tyrolean
culture and thus agreeing to completely ‘Italianise’. A large percentage
of South Tyroleans decided to leave, although only a small part of them
really left due to the outbreak of the war (Lantschner 2008).
World War II, the Paris Peace Treaty (1946) confirmed South Tyrol as
part of Italy, but it provided for an international anchoring of
minority rights, ensuring for the German speakers special provisions to
guarantee their “complete equality of rights with the Italian speaking
inhabitants” and to safeguard “the ethnic character and the cultural and
economic development of the German speaking element”.
During the peace negotiations, the Allied powers were motivated to
appease Italy because of larger geopolitical reasons. Therefore, the
Brenner Pass, which borders Austrian Tyrol was accepted as an
irrevocable border line. The reintegration of South Tyrol into Austria
was no longer possible in the emerging Cold War context of post-war
settlements (Steininger 1990). According to the Gruber – De Gasperi
Agreement, the German speakers of South Tyrol were to be guaranteed a
substantial autonomy. The agreement also acknowledged Austria’s official
role as protecting power. Austria, the kin-state of the German-speaking
South Tyroleans, played a crucial role in the settlement of the
conflict, both with regard to the implementation of the autonomous
legislative and executive powers, and to the functioning of the special
mechanisms meant to safeguard the ethnic character of German speakers
(e.g. the ethnic quota system).
Italy considered the obligations
arising from the international treaty to be fulfilled by its having
established the Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol.
However, the ASt of 1948 ensured far-reaching autonomy at the regional
level, where Italians were the majority (71.5%). For example, primary
legislative powers in the economic sector were vested with the region.
Moreover, the region was not obliged to delegate its administrative
powers to the provinces of Trento and Bolzano. The interests of
German-speaking South Tyroleans were therefore easily outvoted.
Dissatisfaction and tensions grew steadily, leading to bomb attacks
against symbols of Italian state (Lantschner 2008: 12). In 1960, Austria
urged the United Nations to take a position on the South Tyrolean
question. The UN General Assembly recommended that a solution should be
found through further negotiations in two resolutions.
Overall, strenuous negotiations at different political levels brought
forward by political elites within special commissions characterised the
settlement of the South Tyrolean conflict. In practice, such
negotiations translated to a detailed and sophisticated autonomy system
that essentially grants a peaceful and legally safeguarded parallel
coexistence of the main linguistic groups. It balances ethno-linguistic
claims and efficiency by power sharing. If Austria as a kin-state played
a fundamental international role in settling the conflict, nationally
it was the provincial-based South Tyrolean Peoples’ Party (hereinafter
SVP), which since its foundation in 1945 fought for the rights of the
German and Ladin speakers in South Tyrol. One of the first initiatives
undertaken by the SVP was the collection of 158,000 signatures for
self-determination. During the course of the negotiations concerning the
amendment of the first ASt of 1948 (regarding
inter alia the transfer of legislative and
administrative powers from the regional to the provincial level) the SVP
played a crucial role: in 1969 it voted for internal
self-determination, paving the way for the package of legislative
measures which led to the ASt of 1972. Aside from the Italian and
Austrian parliaments, it was the only actor voting, as neither the
regional nor provincial parliament voted. By voting for the package of
legislative measures, reunification with Austria was declared an
unrealistic claim and internal self-determination the only practicable
3.2. Trust-building and Bilateral Negotiations
main characteristic of both South Tyrol’s conflict settlement and the
implementation process of its autonomy statute is mutual trust-building
by means of negotiation in special commissions. The process that led to
today’s autonomy system has its foundation in international law and,
most importantly, was the result of negotiated compromises reached at
the domestic level. As previously anticipated, the two UN resolutions
clearly pledged for a friendly solution to be found through bilateral
negotiations. Italy and Austria, as signatories of the Gruber – De
Gasperi Agreement, were to come to an agreement on how to successfully
settle the conflict.
In 1961, the Italian Minister of the Interior
established the so-called ‘Commission of Nineteen’. Its mandate was to
elaborate concrete proposals concerning technical and legal measures
aimed at definitively settling the conflict. The commission was composed
of 19 members: 11 Italian speakers (representing the national,
regional, and provincial governments and parliaments), 7 German speakers
(appointed by the regional and provincial authorities), and 1 Ladin
(appointed by the province of Bolzano/Bozen). The dominant position of
Italian speakers within the commission notwithstanding, an agreement was
reached. The resulting arrangement ended Italian domination and
established the current power-sharing system. Throughout the
negotiations, the SVP was officially recognised as the legitimate
representative of all German and Ladin speakers in South Tyrol.
in 1969, the final acceptance of the 137 legislative measures meant to
reform the first ASt of 1948 by transferring powers to the provincial
level was not voted for
via referendum by all South Tyroleans, but solely by the delegates of the SVP.
After heated discussions, a slim majority of 52.8% supported the 137
measures, the so-called ‘Package’. The opponents of the Package rejected
it, as its approval in their opinion would have meant definitely
renouncing their goal of reunifying South Tyrol with Austria. The
supporters of the Package opted for internal self-determination,
claiming a far-reaching autonomy for South Tyrol. Only three years
later, on 20 January 1972, the ASt entered into force. In 1992, the
conflict was formally closed by the handover to the UN General Assembly
of the so-called ‘deed of discharge’ by the Austrian government. In
theory however, Austria could still take Italy to the International
Court of Justice in case of severe violations of the provisions
enshrined in the Gruber – De Gasperi Agreement or in the Package.
3.3. Implementation through Special Bodies and Procedures
The most important functional elements for the
implementation of the Statute of the Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto
Adige/South Tyrol (and thus also for the provisions concerning the
Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen) are two joint commissions. They
were created to enable both parties, the State and the region/provinces,
to jointly develop the contents of the enactment decrees.
Theoretically, the ‘Package’ foresaw that both technical tools,
enactment decrees and joint commissions, would cease to exist once the
ASt is implemented.
This was not the case however, as the enactment decrees have since
evolved from an instrument for the implementation of the ASt into an
ordinary instrument of government.
legal basis of the joint commissions is Article 107 of the ASt.
According to this provision “the executive measures implementing the […]
statute shall be issued by legislative decrees, following consultation
of a joint commission […]”. This article forms the basis for two
so-called joint commissions. The first, the ‘Commission of Twelve’,
deals with issues regarding the entire region of Trentino-Alto
Adige/South Tyrol, and is composed by an equal number of representatives
of the State on the one hand (six members), and of the region and the
two provinces (two members each) on the other. The second, the
‘Commission of Six’, is part of the former and deals with issues
regarding the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen. Both commissions
reflect the parity principle as the core of special autonomy.
whereas in the ‘Commission of Twelve’ the State and the region have
equal footing with six members each, the ‘Commission of Six’ is
characterised by double parity, meaning parity between territories (the
State and South Tyrol) and parity between the main linguistic groups
(three Italian-speaking members and three German-speaking members). As
to the appointment procedure, one of the State representatives must be
from the German speakers and one of South Tyrol’s representatives must
belong to the Italian-speaking group. This is one of the factors for
success, as the even number of representatives makes it impossible to
reach an agreement without the consent of both the institutional
parties, the State and province, and the linguistic groups.
because of this equal representation of both linguistic groups and
institutional parties, the ‘Commission of Six’ is not only a successful
trust-building instrument, but also justifies the fact that its
decisions prevail over laws democratically adopted by the Italian
parliament. Although formally of the same rank in the hierarchy of legal
sources, subsequent ordinary laws adopted by the Italian parliament
cannot abolish, amend or overrule enactment decrees. They are by-laws of
the ASt and can be modified only by the same special procedure.
an outcome of the negotiations between the State and the province
within the joint commissions, the drafts of enactment decrees are
submitted to the national government, which approves them in the form of
Consequently, these enactment decrees constitute legislative acts that
are part of ordinary law. They are not debated in or adopted by the
national parliament. Therefore, their deliberation is kept separately
from normal political processes. Experts from both sides are involved in
the elaboration process of the decrees.
3.4. The Role of the Italian Constitutional Court
The Constitutional Court is significant with respect to the development of Italy’s regionalism,
especially with regard to South Tyrol. According to the case law,
minority protection through the application of the negotiation and
parity principles has been a red line for decades.
Particularly after the reform of the Italian Constitution in 2001, the
Court has evolved into a ’platform for conflict management’, as the
enactment provisions of fundamental parts of the modified Constitution
of 2001 are completely or at least largely still missing. For the time
being, the Court has taken over the role of conflict manager, solving
all State-region conflicts.
As to the autonomy of South Tyrol, the Court recently played a crucial
role in defining the scope (and procedures) regarding its financial
autonomy regime. This has occurred against the backdrop of fiscal
austerity measures, in which the province is attempting to resist
centrally-imposed financial restrictions by the State government.
Not only special regions, but also ordinary regions are increasingly
taking legal actions against recent austerity measures (Constitutional
Court, Judgment no. 188/2011). Currently, criticism has arisen as to the
role of the Constitutional Court: since 2001, it vests a
quasi-legislative function as its extensive case law tends to replace
the ordinary legislation by the parliament.
On 20 January 1972, the ASt
entered into force, transferring all legislative and administrative
powers from the Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol to the
Autonomous Province of Trento and the Autonomous Province of
Bolzano/Bozen, respectively. Within Italy, these two provinces are the
only ones vested with autonomous powers. The autonomous region retained
an insignificant number of competences which had over the years been
largely devolved to the two provinces.
of constitutional rank and as part of the regional basic law of
Trentino-Alto Adige/ South Tyrol, the ASt has a double guarantee:
interferences by ordinary laws of lower rank are excluded, as are
unilateral amendments. Implementation and amendments to the ASt depend
on a complex legal approval procedure, based on a continuous
institutional dialogue between the central State and the autonomous
provinces. The relationship between the central government and South
Tyrol is essentially bilateral. Bilateralism is also inherent to the
nature of South yrol’s special institutions in charge of both the
implementation and development of its autonomy: the joint commissions
(Gehler 2003). This principle of bilateralism is legally guaranteed by
the principle of special treatment that is based on the Constitution.
Thus, all reforms to the ASt must be bilaterally negotiated, in
political as well as legal terms by means of strict procedures (Zwilling
2007). The special process of implementation is the legal masterpiece
of the ASt (Palermo 2008a).
As to the amendment procedure, in 2001
a reform was introduced in order to provide the regional parliament
with the right to initiate amendments to the ASt. Furthermore, in case
of initiatives by the national government or parliament, the regional
parliament will express its opinion, this – even if not binding – being
of political importance. Moreover, no national referendum can be held on
the amendments of the ASt. Even when endowed with such far-reaching
guaranties, until today no sound reform proposals to the ASt have been
With regard to the financial relations between
the State and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen, a more flexible
procedure which allows for manoeuvring space regulates South Tyrol’s
financial autonomy. In fact, this forms an exception to the above
mentioned amendment procedure allowing for faster modifications,
but it still guarantees the parity and bilateral cooperation principles
in the relationship with the State (Valdesalici 2010). As a rule, with
regard to finances each special region has a different agreement with
the State, regulated in the respective autonomy statute.
5.1. The Provincial Council
to the ASt the organs of the region and of the provinces respectively
are the council, the government and the president. (Article 24 and 47, ASt) The
provincial council is the legislative body, the highest-ranking body of
each autonomous province. Within the framework of powers granted to it,
the council’s duties comprise the election of the provincial government
(the president and the ministers), the supervision of the provincial
government, public debates on problems of public concern, and, if within
its legislative competences, making the necessary decisions. Therefore,
the most important function of the provincial council is the
legislation in the above mentioned competence fields (Avolio 2008: 63).
The provincial council consists of 35 deputies, elected every five years
by the population, based on proportional representation. The deputies
of the provincial council are simultaneously deputies of the regional
council. As such, they – together with the deputies of the council of
Trento – exercise the few legislative functions vested with the Region
Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol. Following the strict application of
parity between both territories, the province of Trento and the province
of Bolzano, the regional organ is also called the ‘condominium’ organ (Ibid.: 56) of the two provinces. Its sessions have to be held alternatively in Trento and in Bolzano (Article 27 ASt)
and its president must be elected for the first half of the legislature
from amongst the Italian-speaking group and for the second half from
amongst the German-speaking group, with his two vice-presidents
belonging to the other linguistic group, respectively (Article 30 ASt). Moreover,
the right of representation of the Ladin-speaking group in the
presidency of the regional and provincial councils has been enforced
In some cases, language groups may also cast votes in the provincial council (Article 56 ASt).
This occurs whenever a draft law is judged to be in breach of the
equality between the groups, or perceived to be violating the cultural
characteristics of one group. It is a type of ‘alarm-bell procedure’
that can ultimately end in front of the Constitutional Court. This same
right also extends to administrative acts (Article 92 ASt).
5.2. The Provincial Government
provincial government is the executive body of the Autonomous Province
of Bolzano/Bozen (Avolio 2008: 68). It implements laws passed by the
provincial council and administers the province. The provincial
government consists of the president, one vice-president for the
German-speaking group and one for the Italian-speaking group, and the
ministers. The provincial council elects the government by absolute
majority from amongst its members,
via a secret ballot. Article 50 (2) of the
ASt foresees that the composition of the provincial government must
reflect the ratio of the groups as represented in the council. A
representative of the smallest group, the Ladins, can also become a
member of the provincial government by means of by-election,
independently of the proportional principle. The same principles also apply to local bodies (Article 61 and 62 ASt).
to the functioning of the government, the constitutional reform of 2001
entailed some changes. First, South Tyrol was granted free choice
concerning its form of government (Zwilling 2010). Secondly, the reform
also assigned to Ladin speakers a right to become members of the
provincial government. The tasks of the provincial government are manifold (Avolio 2008: 69):
it implements laws passed by the provincial council;
it is the highest authority with regard to the provincial administration;
it gives instructions on its own responsibility to subordinate provincial authorities;
it participates in the legislative process, e.g. it can submit bills to the provincial council;
it is the legal representative of the province vis-à-vis the State and the national government;
controls the municipalities and public bodies of the province. In other
words, the government carries out the political-administrative guidance
of the province.
5.3. The President
The president is the representative of the province (Article 52 ASt). His main responsibilities are passing laws and regulations (Article 23 ASt),
participating in meetings of the Italian government if questions
concerning South Tyrol are on its agenda, deciding upon provincial
policies regarding such decisions, assigning departments to the
ministers, convoking the government and acting as chair in its meetings.
Therefore, his role within the provincial constitutional framework is
quite significant. On the contrary, the region’s president leads the
less important regional government. He is elected by the regional
council by its members
via secret ballot and participates in
meetings of the Italian government if questions concerning the Region
Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol are on its agenda. Since legislative
competences have been almost completely transferred to the provincial
level, his function in passing regional laws and regulations has become
To run one’s own affairs
independently and effectively is the primary concern of every quest for
autonomy, and is a key element of successful conflict transformation
(Parolari and Voltmer 2008). South Tyrol’s autonomous powers are quite
outstanding, not only when compared to other minority-situations, but
even with regard to its northern neighbour, the Land Tyrol, a member
state of federal Austria.
Generally, the provincial powers relate to economic, cultural and social matters (Woelk 2007). They include:
competences are freely exercised, in conformity with the Constitution,
international obligations and the basic principles of the Italian legal
system, as well as in conformity with the fundamental principles of
socio-economic reforms. Provincial secondary legislation has, in
addition, also had to respect ordinary Italian laws. Secondary
legislative powers include local police issues, elementary and secondary
education, commerce, apprenticeships and vocational training,
employment issues, public performances concerning public order and
concessions for establishments open to the public, industrial
protection, water supplies, hygiene and public health (including
hospital services), and sport and recreation.
Financial autonomy has
been crucial for conflict settlement in the Autonomous Province of
Bolzano/Bozen (Benedikter 2008), and was a milestone for implementing
the ASt and regulating the coexistence of the three linguistic groups.
The province is effectively entitled to receive nearly all the tax
revenue collected by the central State within the provincial territory.
On average, the province’s participation share determined by law is 90%
of the revenue from State taxes collected on the territory of the
province, including indirect income tax. In the field of expenditure,
the province has complete budgetary autonomy, while the responsibility
for collecting taxes continues – for the time being – to lie with the
central administration. Most importantly, the financial system cannot be
altered without the agreement of the province. The financial system of
the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen provides sufficient funds to
cover the expenditure requirements of the autonomy. Therefore, until
recently the ruling party did not see any urgency in claiming
legislative powers over taxation (‘full autonomy’).
last several years however, calls for increased clarity concerning
financial and fiscal autonomy have arisen, as a consequence of both the
austerity measures the recent national governments have imposed, and of
the so-called national ‘fiscal federalism reform’,
which puts forward new rules in intergovernmental financial relations
within Italy. The latter reform finally implements Article 119 of the
Italian Constitution (as reformed by the Constitutional Reform in 2001).
In accordance with its principles, both ordinary and special regions
are required to review their financial relationships with the central
government. Put simply, the ‘fiscal federalism reform’ is intended to
provide all regions with increased autonomy over both revenue and
expenditure. In 2001, subnational entities were provided with a myriad
of new functions which required the financial means to properly
performing the functions. To this end, Article 119 of the Italian
Constitution provides for a re-arrangement of financial relations, as
well as the introduction of financial autonomy at the subnational level.
It guarantees all territorial entities financial autonomy with regard
to revenues and expenditure. A series of by-laws, or governmental
decrees, outline the details of the reform, which in view of the ongoing
discussion over the constitutional reform bill (concerning the
abolition of concurrent powers at the expense of the regions as well as
the re-organization and partial abolition of municipalities and
provinces) are becoming partially obsolete before having ever been
properly implemented. Special regions have conducted bilateral
negotiations on how to participate in the new financial framework. As a
frontrunner, on 30 November 2009, South Tyrol signed a financial
agreement with the central government which defines the new rules
(Valdesalici 2010). Put simply, these rules consolidate the calculation
of the province’s acquisition of 90% of taxes collected, and have
recently already been revised (Financial Security Pact 2014). Overall,
in Italy, the recent austerity measures and reform packages favour
re-centralisation, a trend common for most fiscal reform processes in
European multi-level states (Alber and Valdesalici 2012).
When it comes to
intergovernmental relations, a crucial differentiation has to be made
between bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. Bilateralism is
epitomized by the joint commissions, namely the ‘Commission of Twelve’
for issues regarding the region of Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol and
the ‘Commission of Six’ for matters concerning the Autonomous Province
Even though these commission were initially planned to be abolished
after the implementation of the ASt, they have been left in place beyond
this process and have over time evolved into an ordinary instrument of
refining the autonomy system. It is true that similar joint commissions
exist in all five autonomous regions of Italy. But especially in Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol they have assumed an outstanding role for intergovernmental relations.
far as multilateral cooperation is concerned, the only noteworthy
channel is representation in the Standing Conference for Cooperation
between the State, the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces (Conferenza permanente per i rapporti tra lo Stato, le Regioni e le Province Autonome).
This conference, which was established in 1983 and formalized by Law
no. 400/1988, is vested with consultative powers and meets in three
different settings: the so-called “State-Regions Conference”, the
“State-cities and Local Autonomies Conference” and the “Joint
Conference”, which brings together the three levels of government
Even though the conference system serves in the first place as a forum
of debate for the executives of the government levels regarding
political and administrative issues, its opinion has in certain cases
actually become compulsory. However, the impact of this multilateral
mechanism is limited by the diversity of interests among the regions.
Put differently, it has proven to be difficult to define common
positions due to cleavages stemming from different political views and
socio-economic differences along the North-South line. Due to these
inherent limits for the effectiveness of the conference system and the
joint commission as powerful alternatives, multilateral cooperation is
for South Tyrol on no account as important bilateralism.
The foundation upon which
South Tyrol’s institutionalised ethnic governance rests is power-sharing
between its main linguistic groups and a set of sophisticated balances
between contrasting principles. The entire institutional design of the
Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen is based on separation and forced
cooperation of the two main language groups. The broad spectrum of
special provisions which regulate relations between the linguistic
groups establishes a consociational democracy model, a form of
government of consensual ethnic power sharing. Its core principles are
cultural autonomy, language parity and ethnic proportionality.
ethnically divided governance system applies to everyday life in South
Tyrol, ranging from the field of public employment to the educational
system, and establishes a detailed regime of linguistic rights. The
system of group rights within the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen
is based on the declaration of belonging to or the declaration of
affiliation with a language group, which is instrumental for the ethnic
quota system. The preconditions for the success of such a consociational
democracy model are reciprocal recognition and dialogue. This best
permits all segments of society to contribute to the development of a
system that is separated in its essence but in practice permeated by
forced cooperation. "Parity or equality of both the institutionally
recognized groups and of the individuals is balanced by the
proportional principle (representation according to numbers in
population), and the personal principle (protection as group members) is
balanced by the territorial principle (special status of the Region and
the Provinces)" (Woelk 2008a: 212).
consociationalism in South Tyrol translates into four main elements: the
participation of all language groups in the joint exercise of
governmental power, a system of veto rights to defend each group’s vital
interests, the principle of cultural autonomy for groups and an ethnic
quota system based on a linguistic declaration (or affiliation).
9.1. Employment in Public Administration
provincial government carries out its functions through an extensive
bi/trilingual administrative structure. In 2014, the local
administration counted a total of 40,440 employees (ASTAT 2015: 45).
This includes, amongst others, the regional administration and regional
parliament (98 persons), the provincial administration/school system
(7,512 persons), the provincial parliament (59 persons), local health
authorities (8,754 persons) and teachers including headmasters (8,928
persons). Posts must be assigned according to ethnic proportions,
calculated on the basis of the most recent census (or, until 1988,
according to the ethnic composition of the provincial assembly). The
ethnic quota system is based on the Gruber – De Gasperi Agreement of
1946, and according to Article 89 (3) of the ASt it foresees the
distribution of jobs in the civil service, “in proportion to the size of
the [language] groups themselves, as they appear in the declarations of
the official census”.
the time of the census, every resident makes a formal declaration,
based on free choice, of his or her language group (or language group
affiliation): this declaration is the basis for the right to stand for
public office, to be employed in the public administration or school
system, and to be given social housing. The declaration is revealed only
if necessary. The declaration also ascertains the numerical strength of
the linguistic groups, which then forms the legal foundation of public
life (including the allocation of financial means). In practical terms
this means that candidates compete for the posts reserved for their
respective group only and not for the totality of the posts. Those who
do not make the declaration cannot apply for public posts, offices,
public housing and various other social contributions
(Lantschner and Poggeschi 2008). The ethnic quota system applies to all
State and semi-State bodies operating in the province, as well as to the
provincial and municipal administrations. At the municipal level, the
quota is based on the strength of the linguistic groups in that specific
municipality. For instance, the municipal administration of the capital
city Bolzano/Bozen has a majority of Italian civil servants whereas
other municipalities have a majority of German civil servants (up to
100% in some villages). The ethnic quota system also applies to
privatised institutions such as railroads and the postal service. It
aims to guarantee both the representation of the groups and the
provision of bilingual services throughout the territory of South Tyrol,
and trilingual ones in the Ladin-speaking valleys. The quota system was
introduced to gradually balance Italian dominance in the public State
thus acting as a mechanism of reparation for the Italianisation of
public posts during the fascist oppression. With regard to provincial
and local administration, the first ASt of 1948 and respective regional
laws already foresaw the ethnic quota system (Gudauner 2013: 199-200).
It was applied according to the ethnic composition of the respective
The representation of language groups in local and
provincial administration according to their respective proportions was
basically already achieved in the 1980s, facilitated by the creation of
public posts due to the transfer of competences, but was not achieved as
quickly with regard to posts within public State administration (Ibid.: 191).
Overall however, the representation of language groups in the civil
service according to their respective proportions is now achieved (Ibid.:
202-209). Since the late 1990s onwards, the ethnic quota system has
been handled more flexibly, not least out of necessity. In practice,
this means that in cases where it is not possible to find a qualified
candidate, a candidate of the other language group can occupy the post.
Such off-quota job grants are to be returned during one of the
subsequent selection procedures.
In some specific cases, executive positions and highly specialised
occupational profiles, the meritocratic principle may prevail. Though
segments of South Tyrolean society have begun to question the limitation
in time of such an affirmative action, the majority still views the
ethnic quota system as a valid instrument.
However, different options as to a reform of the ethnic quota system
are regularly discussed. One proposed option is to temporarily suspend
such regulations for branches where the representation of language
groups in their respective proportions is balanced (Palermo 2011).
Another is to further strengthen the meritocratic component by the
linguistic criteria. Reforms to the regulations with regard to the
for the certification of bi/trilingualism are also regularly discussed,
and implemented. All civil servants (and persons working for companies
charged with the provision of public utility services) must currently be
bilingual (and trilingual in the Ladin valleys), thus in possession of
that exam, which, once passed, is valid for their lifetime.
9.2. Language Use in Administration and Judiciary
must be bilingual in the whole territory of South Tyrol, and trilingual
in the two Ladin valleys. This means that the use of the two official
languages in South Tyrol, German and Italian, is based on the personal
principle, while for the use of Ladin the territorial principle is
applied. The individual makes the choice of language. In other words,
the whole administration (broadly interpreted) has an obligation to “use
the language of the applicant and [to] reply in the language in which
documents have been started” (Article 100 (3) ASt).
When documents are “started by the offices themselves, the
correspondence must be carried on in the language presumed to be the
mother tongue of the citizen to whom it is directed” (Article 100 (3) ASt),
and documents directed to the public must be bilingual. As previously
mentioned, public employees must be bilingual and trilingual in the
Ladin areas, and language proficiency must be proven through a public
the provisions on the use of language best elucidate the dual nature of
the ASt framework (individual and collective rights):
language rights are framed as individual rights, formally reserved to
the members of the minority group. Article 100 of the ASt guarantees
German speakers the right to speak German in the relations “with
judiciary offices and with the organs and offices of public
administration located in the Province and with regional powers, as well
as with concessionaires of public services in the Province itself.”
Article 99 defines the territorial dimension of the language provisions,
prescribing the equal standing of both languages in the province. It
sets German on par with the Italian language, which is the official
State language (e.g. with regard to bilingual drafting of legislative
texts). Articles 99 and 100 are both based on a provision of the Gruber –
De Gasperi Agreement (parity of German and Italian languages).
In practice, the 1988 enactment decree
on the use of languages does not distinguish between members of the
national minority and other residents; everyone can choose their
linguistic affiliation, regardless of ethnic identity. The statutory
principles on the use of languages, setting the rules for the use of
German and Ladin languages by the public administration
(bi/trilingualism) and during legal actions (the right to undertake
legal proceedings in the mother-tongue), were defined only 16 years
after the ASt was approved. The reason for the delay is twofold:
technical difficulties and a lack of political will to accept a fully
bilingual judiciary regime, and that the administration of the judiciary
was viewed as a State competence. Providing for a bilingual judicial
system is a complex exercise, requiring extensive human resources. It
took several years before a numerically sufficient bilingual staff was
able to guarantee an effective service. Moreover, legal terminology had
to be developed. A bilingual regime can only function if the legal
terminology in the minority languages is reliable. While this is not a
problem with regard to ‘everyday life-German’, it becomes more
complicated in fields where precise technical language is required. The
legal terminology, concepts and terms in the South Tyrolean legal system
differ from those used in Austria or Germany, due to the differences in
their legal systems. Therefore, the decree on the use of languages has
set up a special joint commission consisting of six experts, three
Italian-speaking and three German-speaking. The joint terminology
commission is tasked with the establishment, update and ratification of
the legal terminology to be used by public entities and bodies,
including the standardisation of the legal terminology in German related
to the Italian legal system (Alber and Palermo 2012: 297-303). However,
there is no indication concerning Ladin legal terminology (a trilingual
glossary of the most used terms in administrative law exists;
additionally, the regional council provided for the translation of the
As a rule, the principle of the separate use of languages
applies not only to administration but also to the judiciary
(Fraenkel-Haeberle 2008). Understandably, the principle of individual
choice of the language is crucial in criminal proceedings, in order to
guarantee the best chances for the defence, while it is partly
attenuated in civil proceedings, where it is balanced against the
interest of a speedy procedure. Generally, trials are conducted in one
language only. There are however several exceptions to this rule. Both
languages, German and Italian, are often used in a trial, which is
possible because human resources are bilingual. With regard to higher
legal education, the Austrian University of Innsbruck offered a series
of specialisation courses in the 1970s, counteracting educational
arrears. Moreover, a cooperation agreement between Austria and Italy
concerning tertiary education entered into force in 1983.
This agreement paved the way for the integrated curriculum on Italian
Law at the University of Innsbruck, in cooperation with the University
Since 1985, the integrated curriculum allows for the study of Italian
law, partly through the medium of German and partly through the medium
of Italian. This has contributed to the establishment of bilingual
lawyers and to an increase in German-speaking legal experts employed in
public administration, as mandated by the ethnic quota system. The
strong cooperation between South Tyrol and the University of Innsbruck
is one of the cornerstones of the identity of the greater area of Tyrol
(Pernthaler 2007: 214).
In practice, German is today the dominant
language in public administration, while Italian prevails in the
judicial system. At the political level, the regulations on language use
also envisage the alternative use of Italian and German in the meetings
of the regional councils, of the province of Bolzano/Bozen and of the
municipalities, and therefore the use of simultaneous interpretation at
said meetings if requested. As to the Ladins and the use of Ladin
language, they do not enjoy the same legal status as German speakers in
South Tyrol. Article 32 of the enactment decree of 1988 determines that
Ladin citizens can use Ladin only with public administration if the
offices are situated in the Ladin municipalities or if the
provincial/regional offices located throughout the territory are in
charge of representing Ladin interests.
autonomy of the groups enshrined in Article 2 of the ASt regarding all
culture-related issues and provisions for the protection and promotion
of their cultural characteristics, including the proportional allocation
of financial resources, are typical expressions of group protection.
This includes the system of separated schools, based on monolingual
instruction, as well as separated cultural offices. In the plurilingual
Ladin school system however, the principle of ‘teaching language parity’
is applied (hours are given in German and Italian language in an equal
amount, and Ladin itself is also taught and used as a back-up language
while teaching). Tertiary education has been recently established and is
based on trilingualism (German, Italian and English).
status quo of the threefold provincial
schooling system must be considered through the lens of South Tyrol’s
history. After the annexation to Italy in 1919, the fascist occupation
(1922-1943) prohibited the German language. Instruction in German was
slowly re-introduced after 1943. However, the first ASt of 1948 vested
the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen with primary powers only in
relation to specialised courses in agriculture and commerce; for primary, secondary and upper-secondary education the province was only granted secondary legislative powers
(Alber 2012). The ASt of 1972 attributes to South Tyrol primary and
secondary legislative powers with regard to the school system.
According to Article 8 of the ASt, South Tyrol enjoys exclusive
legislative power over nursery schools, school welfare, school buildings
and vocational training. Furthermore, the province is entitled to issue
laws concerning primary and secondary education (and teacher training)
in conformity with the principles established by State legislation.
Article 19 of the ASt provides for regulation on the language of
instruction, in accordance with the principle of monolingual
instruction; it reads, “instruction in the nursery, elementary and
secondary schools is indeed given in the Italian or German mother tongue
of the pupils by instructors for whom that language is also their
mother tongue”. In practice, teachers must be native speakers of the
language they teach. These group rights are, however, balanced by the
individual right of the parents to choose the school system that they
wish their children to attend (according to the principle of free choice
over whether to enrol the pupil in a German- or Italian-speaking
The teaching of the second language is compulsory. Article 19 of the
ASt also provides for special measures in the educational curriculum, as
well as for the structure and administration of the provincial school
system, which are exempt from the principles established by State law
but functional for the needs of South Tyrol. This results in three
independent school authorities (the Italian, the German and the Ladin)
and the obligatory teaching of a second language.
Each of the
school departments, under the control of its respective ministry in the
provincial government, is responsible for the administration of its own
school system, for the management and partial design of the curricula,
and for teachers’ salaries. Diplomas obtained in German language
secondary schools are equivalent to those earned in schools having
Italian as their language of instruction. In order to guarantee this
equivalence, the National Higher Education Council must be consulted
with regard to the teaching programs and examinations. As to the
administration of South Tyrol’s school system, since 1996 the provincial
government appoints both the superintendent (in agreement with the
National Ministry of Education) as well as the German and Ladin school
inspectors (upon prior consultation with the National Ministry of
In the rest of Italy, the regional level is
responsible for the implementation of the overall national education and
schooling offer, while provincial offices fulfill some administrative
tasks. As already mentioned, special arrangements are in force for the
schools situated in the Ladin valleys: the principle of teaching
language parity applies. The Ladin population has always fought for the
elaboration of a trilingual primary school system. The debate continued
and increased in scope with the entry into force of the ASt in 1972. The
ruling SVP, led by its demands for full autonomy in the school system,
was demanding either a German- or Italian-speaking school in the Ladin
valleys (in conformity with the right of education in the mother tongue
throughout all subjects during obligatory education). The dispute
culminated in an appeal against Article 7 of the enactment decree no.
116 of 1973, concerning the principle of teaching language parity and
the use of Ladin as a vehicular language. The Constitutional Court
(Judgment no. 101/1976) dismissed the appeal and the parity model of
Ladin schools became the official one in the Ladin municipalities. In
practice, the judgment excludes the possibility to choose an Italian or
German language school and confirms the
de facto discrimination of German- or Italian
speaking-children in the Ladin valleys with regard to mother-tongue
instruction. According to the Constitutional Court, the right to attend
German or Italian language schools (as guaranteed in Article 19 of the
ASt for the rest of the province) is directly precluded in the Ladin
municipalities. As to the teachers in Ladin schools, they must have
knowledge of Ladin, German and Italian to be employed in Ladin language
schools, while employment in nursery and primary schools is
preconditioned by teachers’ declaration of affiliation with the Ladin
As far as special rights
are concerned, reference has to be made to the rules concerning the
active right to vote. For both elections to the Provincial Council and
at the municipal level Article 25 (2) of the ASt foresees as a
particular requirement for the exercise of this right continued
residence in the region for at least four years. On the one hand, this
provision pursues the goal of preventing an immediate effect of changes
concerning the proportions of the linguistic groups. Insofar the clause
is intended to serve as an instrument of minority protection, a function
that was also recognized by the Italian Constitutional Court.
On the other hand, Article 25 (2) of the ASt is of course for Italian
citizens, both members of other minorities and the majority population, a
temporary restriction of an essential political right.
Since few autonomy arrangements in the world have
functioned well for more than four decades, some important lessons can
be drawn from South Tyrol’s experience. It is worth mentioning that
although the implementation process has been predominantly domestic,
Austria’s continuous and constructive role as South Tyrol’s kin-state
has been crucial in enhancing Italy’s interest in fully implementing the
ASt. Overall, the foundation upon which South Tyrol’s autonomy rests is
reciprocal recognition and compromise. The tools to achieve it were
bilateral negotiations at the highest institutional level. They led to
the establishment of a system whose basic rules are unilaterally
unchangeable against the will of South Tyrol, and ultimately of its
dominant population, the German speakers.
Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement – more precisely the envisaged equality of
the rights of German speakers with Italian citizens, and the set of
special provisions which safeguard them – can be seen as the very
essence of the compromise which led to a system of detailed legal
guarantees, in accordance with the principles of consociational
democracy. The 1992 deed of discharge formally ended the conflict
between Austria and Italy. South Tyrol’s autonomy, however, continued to
develop by means of its special procedures, based on parity and
bilateralism, though originally put into place only for implementing the
ASt. Therefore, South Tyrol’s autonomy arrangements are today an
evolving work in progress and need to be revised against changing
political, linguistic and socio-economic landscapes. The 2013 provincial
elections marked a turning point in South Tyrol’s political landscape,
reinforcing the debate over the necessity of a third autonomy statute.
Current debates surely are seminal with regard to the development of the
relationships between linguistic groups within the autonomous province,
complicated further by increasing (im)migration.
The case of the
small Alpine province of South Tyrol serves as an example both for the
development of a detailed institutionalised system and for the
assessment of the impact of political dynamics and changing social
realities. German is the majority language in South Tyrol, having the
status of a minority language and all legal guarantees attached to it. A
good knowledge of German (and its South Tyrolean ‘dialects’) is a
determining factor for understanding and experiencing South Tyrol and
its most authentic characteristics (Tyrolean mountain traditions). It is
also the decisive language for societal inclusion and professional
opportunities. However, a good knowledge of Italian is also necessary if
one desires to understand and experience South Tyrol’s (separated)
public spheres in their entirety. Otherwise, South Tyrol continues to be
a well-administered condominium where “living apart in the same room”
and being part of a “relational zero-sum game, where the growth of one
group is believed to be a threat to the other linguistic community” are
the rule (Carlá 2007). Even if interactions between groups increased
considerably in the last years, the principle of separation is still
present in the public sphere. Recent surveys also confirm that the
second language is – contrariwise to English – not yet perceived as an
enrichment for one’s own culture but rather as a foreign language one
must study because it is part of the system; accordingly, the second
language is perceived as something “pasted on us” (Baur and Larcher 2011). The rather limited proficiency
of the second language confirms this attitude, despite the fact that
the second language is taught for many years. Assuming that the
principle of mother tongue education is important for guaranteeing
groups’ rights in South Tyrol, one cannot deny the importance of bi- and
multilingualism for professional reasons provincially, but also on a
European and global scale. In economic terms, South Tyrol is located in a
strategic geographic position at the edge of several economically
strong regions. Thus, knowledge of additional languages is a determining
factor in South Tyrol, not only in the public sector (according to the
ethnic quota system) but also in the private one. Surveys confirm strong
desires for linguistic integration between the groups in South Tyrol,
as well as for the development of an integrated model of language
Given the importance of German in professional life, it is especially,
though not exclusively, the Italian-speaking population which is
pressing for a more integrated language education. In (provincial)
political terms, all parties agree on the accretion of additional
platforms and means of second language apprehension as the lowest common
denominator for achieving socio-cultural success. This also reflects
the opinion of the ruling party, the SVP. However, new methods for
language learning as for example the ‘Content Language Integrated
Learning’ (CLIL) are discussed controversially.
background, politics is also searching for answers on how to better
integrate the increasing diversity as a result of migratory flows. In
the educational sphere, migrant children are subject to a double
challenge, or opportunity, if they do not possess German or Italian as
their mother language. They are required to simultaneously learn both
the minority and the majority language, in addition to their mother
tongue. In contrast to the autochthonous population, for immigrants or
those born to immigrant parents, the apprehension of Italian and German
language is not a matter of identity building but primarily a tool for
integration into the local labour market.
By being obliged to choose between the German- or Italian-speaking
school system, they automatically follow the logic of linguistic
separation in their schooling. With regard to immigrants’ relational
interactions, a study shows that immigrants prefer to interact with
Italian speakers over German speakers (Medda-Windischer
et al.: 2011). A likely reason is that immigrants tend to live in Italian-speaking urban areas.
question today is not over whether or not South Tyrol is multilingual,
but how its evolving socio-linguistic landscapes and legal uniqueness
will be governed in the future. While generally quite positive, the case
of South Tyrol also shows how delicate institutionalised ethnic
governance is, how much ‘daily maintenance’ it requires, and how easy it
is to upset the balances. Issues such as the ‘majoritarisation’ of
minority rights, where a locally dominant minority abuses its majority
position by not being sensitive to the consequences, (whether German
speakers at the provincial level or Italian speakers in the capital city
of Bolzano/Bozen), can easily lead to tensions.
Both the results of surveys and the observance of political discourses
show that there are still unresolved resentments and issues in the legal
and societal arrangements of South Tyrol. Currently, South Tyrol is
clearly in a state of flux, attempting to look towards a new era of
governance based on continuity and change.
autonomy of South Tyrol entered a “period of normalization and
Europeanization” (Atz and Pallaver 2014: 186) since the 2013 elections when
the SVP lost the absolute majority for the first time in its history.
The phenomenon is linked to both the increasing influence of other
actors on the political stage
and the internal re-structuring of the SVP due to the generational
change in its leadership. The ethnic pattern stills prevails in the
South Tyrolean political landscape, at the expense of the Italian
speakers. Currently, only five out of the 35 parliamentary
representatives originate from the Italian language group. Scholars
argue that this “leads to a systemic problem because it puts at risk the
principle of maximum involvement of all language groups in central
decision-making processes” (Ibid.). The elaboration of a new
model of integrated decision-making is thus a top priority for South
Tyrol’s future development. According to the coalition agreement, the
work towards a third autonomy statute will be done within an
ad hoc autonomy convention. The outcomes of a
concerted reform process at the provincial level is especially
important in view of possible direct or indirect implications for South
Tyrol’s autonomy, following the currently discussed Italian
constitutional reform bill (May 2014). The proposed national reform
package aims at abolishing concurrent legislation, thus making clarity
as to the distribution of legislative powers between the two orders of
government, the State and the regions. By doing so, in the State’s view,
the source of constitutional litigation and legal uncertainty would be
eliminated. Accordingly, within the dual system of independent areas of
legislative powers, most powers would be vested with the State. In South
Tyrol, the political elites agree that the ASt should be soon revised
provincially in order to be best prepared for the challenges stemming
from such a centralist constitutional reform bill. Something a large
majority of South Tyroleans agree upon is the debate that revolves
around the expansion of autonomy towards the empowerment of the
cross-border European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino, within the
context of a European Union with strong(er) regions.
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PALERMO Francesco and WILSON Alex, "The dynamics of decentralization in Italy: towards a federal solution?", European Diversity and Autonomy Papers (EDAP), no. 4/2013. Available online at: http://www.eurac.edu/edap (accessed on 15 January 2016).
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PALLAVER Günther, "South Tyrol's Consociational Democracy: Between Political Claim and Social Reality", in WOELK Jens, PALERMO Francesco and MARKO Joseph (eds.), Tolerance through Law: Self Governance and Group Rights in South Tyrol, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden–Boston, 2008, 303-327.
PALLAVER Günther, "Südtirols Parteien und Parteiensystem: Ethnisch, fragmentiert und zentrifugal", in PALLAVER Günther (ed.), Politika 09: Jahrbuch für Politik, Südtiroler Gesellschaft für Politikwissenschaft, Edition Raetia, Bozen, 2009, 245-270.
PALLAVER Günther, "I partiti italiani in Alto Adige. Frammentati e deboli in cerca di una nuova identità", in PALLAVER Günther (ed.), Politika 13: Jahrbuch für Politik, Südtiroler Gesellschaft für Politikwissenschaft, Edition Raetia, Bozen, 2013, 247-282.
PAROLARI Sara and VOLTMER Leonhard, "Legislative and Administrative Autonomy", in WOELK Jens, PALERMO Francesco and MARKO Joseph (eds.), Tolerance through Law: Self Governance and Group Rights in South Tyrol, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden–Boston, 2008, 77-103.
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RAUTZ Günther, "A 'Minority within a Minority': the Special Status of the Ladin Valleys", in WOELK Jens, PALERMO Francesco and MARKO Joseph (eds.), Tolerance through Law: Self Governance and Group Rights in South Tyrol, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden–Boston, 2008, 279-290.
STEININGER Rolf, "Back to Austria? The problem of South Tyrol in 1945/46", The European Studies Journal 7, 1990, 51-83.
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ZWILLING Carolin, "Die Spezialität der Autonomen Provinz Bozen innerhalb der italienischen Verfassungsrechtsordnung", in PALERMO Francesco, HRBEK Rudolf, ZWILLING Carolin and ALBER Elisabeth (eds.), Auf dem Weg zu asymmetrischem Föderalismus? Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2007, 116-129.
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Judgment no. 101 of 1976, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 118 of 5 May 1976.
Judgment no. 160 of 1985, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 131 bis of 5 June 1985.
Judgment no. 37 of 1989, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 8 of 22 February 1989.
Judgment no. 232 of 1991, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 5 of June 1991.
Judgment no 213 of 1998, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 26 of 1 July 1998.
Judgment no. 323 of 2011, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 50 of 30 November 2011.
Judgment no. 2 of 2012, Official Gazette (1st Special Series) no. 3 of 18 January 2012.
Council of State: Opinion no. 3302 of 1995.
Roman Angonese v. Cassa di Risparmio di Bolzano. ECJ Case C-281/98, 6 June 2000. ECR I-4139.
Some parts of this study have been published in the following article: Elisabeth Alber and Carolin Zwilling, "Continuity and change in South Tyrol's governance", in Salat Levente, Constantin Sergiu, Osipov Alexander, Székely István Gergő (eds.), Autonomy Arrangements around the World: A Collection of Well and Lesser Known Cases, Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities, Cluj-Napoca, 2014, 33-66. This study was discussed and written jointly, with Elisabeth Alber
mainly responsible for chapters and sections 1, 2, 3.1, 7, 8, 9, 10 and
11 and Carolin Zwilling for chapters 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4, 5 and 6.
* Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism, EURAC Research.
** Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism, EURAC Research.
 Law no. 482 of 1999.
Elisabetta Palici di Suni Prat (1999) distinguishes between
“super-protected minorities” (German speakers in South Tyrol, French
speakers in Aosta Valley and Slovene speakers in Friuli-Venezia Giulia),
“recognized minorities” (all those recognized in the Italian framework
law no. 482 of 1999) and “not recognized minorities” (the remaining
groups that include Roma and immigrants).
 Data as of 31 December 2014. For detailed data consult ASTAT
Overall, South Tyrol’s surface area amounts to 7,400 km². Almost 5,000
km² are over 1,500 meters above sea level, and only 292 km² are located
less than 500 meters above sea level. Categorised by land use, most of
the surface area is forest (2,920 km²) or used for agriculture (2,670
km²). Agriculture and tourism are two of the major components of the
flourishing South Tyrolean economy. For detailed data consult ASTAT
Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romance language spoken in the Central and Eastern
Alpine region. In South Tyrol, it is spoken in the Italian Dolomite
The different language groups – with the exception of the Ladins – are
heterogeneously distributed. German speakers mainly populate rural areas
while all major cities contain substantial numbers of Italian speakers.
Italian speakers constitute the majority in the capital city
Bolzano/Bozen and in the Southern part of South Tyrol, neighbouring the
Italian-speaking Autonomous Province of Trento. Both autonomous
provinces together form the Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto Adige/South
 For detailed data consult ASTAT (2014). See also Medda-Windischer and Girardi (2010).
Article 116 (1).
This provision constitutes the legal guarantee of the special rights
granted to the autonomous regions.
The Autonomous Region Friuli-Venezia Giulia inhabited by the
Slovene-speaking minority was established only in 1963, after the end of
the international control over the city of Trieste. Overall, it
received a comparatively smaller degree of autonomy.
Out of the 15 ordinary regions, eight are in the North (Piedmont,
Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Marches, Tuscany, Veneto and Umbria);
two are considered to be in central Italy (Lazio and Abruzzo), while
five are located in the South (Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania
and Molise). Although already laid down in the Italian Constitution of
1948, a full-fledged regional Italian State started, however, to develop
only in 1972, when the 15 so-called ‘ordinary’ regions were established
and legislative powers were devolved to them. After the 2001
Constitutional Reform, Italian regionalism is defined as “devolutionary
asymmetric federation in the making”. Ordinary regions are entitled to
approve their own regional basic law and additional differentiation
between ordinary regions is enshrined in Article 116 (3) of the Italian
Constitution. See also Palermo (2005).
For a comprehensive analysis of the evolution of Italian asymmetric
regionalism, as well as the different phases of Italy’s regionalism, see
Palermo (2008b). As to Italy’s cooperative regionalism (also with
regard to South Tyrol) see Woelk (2008b).
Although the special regions were not directly affected by this reform,
a preferential clause guarantees them all benefits, which means all
features that are ‘more favourable’ with regard to their powers and
 For the joint commission see below section 3.3.
Article 1 of Gruber – De Gasperi Agreement which became Annex IV of the
Paris Peace Treaty. The smallest (and oldest) linguistic group, the
Ladins, are technically not covered by the Gruber – De Gasperi
Agreement. The claims of the Ladin minority group have been
traditionally put forward by the German-speaking group and by its most
representative party, the South Tyroleans’ People’s Party.
UN General Assembly Resolution 1497 (XV) of 31 October 1960, “The
Status of the German-Speaking Element in the Province of Bolzano,
Implementation of Paris Agreement of 5 September 1946”; and UN General
Assembly Resolution 1661 (XVI) of 28 November 1961, “The Status of the
German-Speaking Element in the Province of Bolzano (Bozen)”.
The referendum would most probably have split up the population, and
even created cleavages within each linguistic group. In remembrance of
the long-lasting negative consequences after the ‘Option’ (1939), the
possibility of a referendum was rejected.
In fact, after the full implementation, a so-called ‘Commission 137’
should have replaced the joint commissions and the enactment decrees.
This body would have had a pure advisory role and, therefore, would not
have respected the fundamental principle of parity between territories
and linguistic groups. Moreover, this body would not have been able to
guarantee the development of the autonomy. The abolishment of the joint
commissions would have ‘frozen’ all enactment decrees, since they can be
modified only by the same legal source. See Constitutional Court
(Judgments no. 160/1985 and no. 37/1989) and Council of State (Opinion
According to Article 108 of the ASt all enactment decrees should have
been adopted within two years, but Constitutional Court (Judgement no
160/1985) declared it just an indicative time frame. See further Palermo
 According to
Article 76 of the Italian Constitution, these are legislative acts adopted by the government through delegation by the parliament.
In general, for already more than three decades, the Constitutional
Court has been the main actor of Italy’s federation in the making. See
Palermo and Wilson (2013).
 For details see Constitutional Court (Judgments no. 232/1991 and no. 213/1998).
This is because the new constitutional framework is not workable, and
the Court seems to be the only institution that could fill it with life.
While in 1998 litigation between the State and regions made up only
2.76% of the Court’s workload, in 2006 it became 29.16%. For further
http://www.cortecostituzionale.it (accessed 20 May 2014).
 For details see Constitutional Court (Judgments no. 323/ 2011 and no. 2/2012).
See Palermo and Wilson (2013: 17): “In practice, the Court determined
(and largely re-wrote) the division of legislative and administrative
powers laid down by the reform.”
ASt was adopted under Constitutional Law no. 1 of 10 November 1971. For
the unified text see the Presidential Decree no. 670 of 31 August 1972.
Therefore, the existence of the region as a ‘roof-structure’ is
questioned, and its possible abrogation is regularly discussed at the
political level. The two autonomous provinces would then be upgraded
into two autonomous regions.
 Article 104
of the ASt stipulates that the part on financial relations “may be
amended by ordinary State law at the joint request of the Government
and, as regards their respective competence, the Region or the two
 ASt, Article 30 (3)
specifies that Ladins have the right of representation not only in the
councils, but also in the presidencies. Within the province of Trento,
an own constituency has been introduced.
 ASt, Article 50.
As a consequence, in South Tyrol it is necessary to form a coalition
with members of parties belonging to the other linguistic group also if
the SVP reaches absolute majority. There is no analogous provision for
the province of Trento. However, in 2003, a law introduced the direct
election of the president in Trentino.
 ASt, Article 50 (3).
Overall, the interests of the Ladin group are represented by the German
ethnic catch-all party SVP, also against the background that the Ladin
group was not explicitly mentioned in the international Gruber – De
Gasperi Agreement of 1946. Only the first ASt of 1948 gave official
recognition to the Ladin group (Article 87). Today, Ladins can use their
mother tongue, both orally and in writing, in their relations with the
public authorities in the Ladin municipalities. Moreover, the right to
use Ladin with the help of interpreters is also provided in court
proceedings. However, Ladins are not represented in the Administrative
de jure no representation is guaranteed
within the Commission of Six. For further details on the rules of
representation of Ladins in political bodies see Rautz (2008: 285).
 For details see Law no. 42 of 2009 on fiscal federalism.
 For details see above section 3.3.
See the specific provisions included in the autonomy statutes of the
other special autonomous regions: Sicily (Article 43), Sardinia (Article
56), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Article 65), Aosta-Valley (Article 48 bis).
For an evaluation of these forms of cooperation from the different
perspectives of “mature federations” on the one side, and of “emerging
federations on the other side, and for a detailed analysis of the
evolution of the Italian system of conferences, see Bifulco (2006).
The enactment decree no. 752 of 1976 sets forth the details of the
ethnic quota system as well as a time limit of 30 years for applying the
ethnic quota system to State bodies of public administration.
According to the data of the 1971 census, there were 62.9% German,
33.3% Italian and 3.7% Ladin speakers. However, in public State
administration only 13.9% of the German speakers (incl. a few Ladins)
were employed, in contrast to the 86.1% of the Italian speakers (data
from the year 1975). See Gudauner (2013).
If one compares data with regard to civil servants in State
administration bodies of 1975 to data with regard to public employees in
State administration bodies of the years 2002 and 2010, the results
show that the ethnic quota system – together with the requirement of
bilingualism – was overall also successfully applied in State bodies.
Regarding 2012, public State posts are less in numbers as competences
were transferred to the provincial levels throughout the years.
 The Department for Labour of the Provincial Administration is in charge of all calculations.
The fact that at the last census in 2011, from 458,641 linguistic
declarations only 4,934 were invalid and 435 were turned in blank,
indirectly reinforces this argument. However, only 458,641 declarations
were handed in (and not 505,067, the amount of the resident population
as to the census data of 2011). The difference (46,426) comprises
citizens with foreign citizenship residing in South Tyrol (who are not
entitled to deliver the linguistic declaration), South Tyroleans outside
of the province at the time of data collection, and persons who
deliberately did not want to hand in such a declaration.
Roman Angonese v. Cassa di Risparmio di Bolzano,
the Court held that the EC Treaty precludes an employer from requiring
persons applying for employment to provide evidence of their linguistic
knowledge exclusively by means of one particular diploma issued only in
one particular province of a member state. In May 2010, this principle
was implemented by means of the legislative decree no. 86 of 2010 that
indicates all other accepted evidence of proficiency in both Italian and
German (including, for example, exams taken at the internationally
recognised Goethe Institute).
See information published on the webpage of the office in charge of
administrating the bi/trilingualism exams, available online (in German
and Italian) at:
http://www.provinz.bz.it/kulturabteilung/weiterbildung/zwei-und-dreisprachigkeitspruefung.asp (accessed 20 May 2014).
For an in-depth analysis of the individual as well as collective right
to use languages and the specific remedies for the use of language, see
Alber and Palermo (2012: 291-297).
Presidential Decree no. 574 of 1988. All institutions affected by the
decree are listed in Articles 1 and 2. Only the private sector is
excluded, if not in charge of services with public utility.
 See Federal Law Gazette for the Republic of Austria (BGlBl) no. 423 of 1983.
On the establishment, development and current status of the integrated
curriculum on Italian law at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), see
Alber and Palermo (2012: 303-308).
Tertiary education follows the path of linguistic integration. In 1992,
the research seat European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen (EURAC) was
established as a non-profit private entity aimed at the promotion of
applied research and the creation of expertise in sectors of special
relevance for South Tyrol. Furthermore, the trilingual (Italian, German
and English) Free University of Bolzano/Bozen was founded in 1997,
breaking for the first time with the principle of segregated education.
 Article 12 of the first ASt of 1948.
 Articles 8, 9 and 19 of the ASt.
 Articles 30,
of the Italian Constitution refer to the general principles applicable
to education, State schools and the right to free education within the
cycle of compulsory education.
The school authority has the right to refuse enrolment if the pupil’s
linguistic ability is insufficient to attend classes in the language of
the school, and the parents can challenge the school’s decision in front
of the administrative court. As a matter of fact, during the first
years after the enactment of the ASt, in the early 1970s, in several
cases pupils were denied enrolment (especially in the German-speaking
schools), whereas in more recent times this safeguard provision has been
handled in a much more flexible way by the school authorities.
 See Constitutional Court (Judgments no. 240/1975).
In a study, Baur and Larcher (2011) interviewed 70 young South
Tyroleans from all geographic areas of South Tyrol (more precisely, 70
young high school graduates of the school year 2009/2010, two thirds
German speakers, one third Italian speakers and an equal number of women
and men). Even if the qualitative study is not representative due to
the low number of interviews, it exemplarily shows that the second
language is perceived as something mandatory and not part of one’s own
identity as a South Tyrolean. Even though institutions but also private
associations employ many resources in enhancing bilingualism, the output
is rather negative, in deficit. Only in presence of real intercultural
relations (friendships, mixed families), is the second language
perceived as part of one’s own culture. Not even in urban areas where
both linguistic groups live closely together, does contact between the
linguistic groups seem to be regular. Young people apparently prefer to
stick to their own language group.
A study by European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen tested high school pupils
one year before their graduation. It shows that out of 1,800 pupils who
were tested, a large percentage of German speakers were proficient in
Italian at the B1 (44%) or B2 (40%) level of the European Common
Framework of Reference for Languages, while among the Italian speakers
the percentage of those who have very limited knowledge in German is
relatively high (28% at the level of A2; 47% B1, 13% B2). Proficiency in
the second language should at that schooling stage amount to the
equivalent of at least B2. See Mair (2011) and Abel
et al. (2012).
For example, the results of the survey conducted by the research
institute Apollis on behalf of the weekly German-language journal
FF show that 81% of South Tyroleans would
welcome a bilingual school policy (16% are against it); this is the
opinion not only of 98% Italian speakers, but also of 73% German
speakers and even of 74% of sympathizers of the SVP. For details see
FF – Das Südtiroler Wochenmagazin (2008).
For the time being, there is no data on how immigrants educated in
South Tyrol integrate in the local labour market. Too few immigrants
have concluded their schooling in South Tyrol, and there is not yet a
second or third generation of migrants.
For example, when symbols such as toponomy are at stake. The official
denomination of place names is one of the currently discussed open
wounds of the South Tyrolean conflict and is still extremely sensitive.
During the fascist regime, Italian place names (often artificially
created) were made official, banning the use of German traditional
names. Article 8 of the ASt attributes to the province the exclusive
legislative power on “place names, without prejudice to the requirement
 The party
Die Freiheitlichen currently is the
second-strongest party in the provincial council, a position that had
always been held by an Italian-language party.