Minority in Italy fears losing representative in parliament (background)

Ljubljana – Representatives of the Slovenian minority in Italy will be meeting officials from the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad on Friday to discuss the risk that the minority may not have its representative in the Italian parliament for the first time in 60 years after Italy’s 25 September early general election.

The meeting will be attended by Senator Tatjana Rojc, Ksenija Dobrila and Walter Bandelj as the presidents of both minority umbrella organisations in Italy, and State Secretary at the Office for Slovenians Abroad Vesna Humar.

The early election will be held under the new law which reduces the overall number of MPs, including from Friuli Venezia Giulia region, which is home to the minority.

The overall number of deputies and senators in the lower and upper chambers of parliament, respectively, will be cut by a third, according to the Office for Slovenians Abroad.

Friuli Venezia Giulia will meanwhile have 40% fewer representatives – eight rather than 13 in the Chamber of Deputies and 4 instead of 7 in the senate.

A potential victory of far-right parties, which current polls indicate, is another factor reducing the chances of a Slovenian representative being elected.

Ever since 1963, Slovenian representation has been made possible by centre-left and left-wing parties, chiefly the Democratic Party and its predecessors.

Senator Rojc, currently the only Italian lawmaker of Slovenian descent, has for instance been elected on the slate of the Democratic Party.

Neither the 2001 law on Slovenian minority rights nor the Italian constitution or any other law sets down a guaranteed seat for the minority in Rome.

The minority having had an elected representative in Rome since the early 1960s is “solely due to the attention and diligence of the centre-left Democratic Party, and of its predecessors over the past decades”, Dobrila of the SKGZ told the STA in a written statement before tomorrow’s meeting.

Rojc, Dobrila and Bandelj agree on the important of fielding Slovenian minority candidates and on having a representative in Rome, with the senator saying the representative “is a link connecting the ethnic community with Italy’s top institutions” in promoting minority rights.

Rojc said that “it is of utmost importance” that the Democratic Party now “hears the appeal” of the Slovenian minority and Slovenia to field Slovenian candidates.

Dobrila added that this is the only party on which the minority can count nowadays, adding that “everything will depend on the selection of the Democratic Party”.

Bandelj of the SSO umbrella organisation stressed the importance of the party fielding a Slovenian candidate where they could be elected.

He wonders how Italy will act if the minority does hot have its candidate elected, pointing to the 2001 Slovenian minority rights law that obliges it to make it easy for the minority to be represented in both chambers of parliament.

Bandelj warns that not doing so would violate the rights of the minority and Italian national legislation, of which the Council of Europe would have to be notified.

Last September Senator Rojc tabled an amendment to the Italian constitution to ensure the election of a Slovenian representative.

Although the change proved unfeasible, she believes this is the right direction to pursue, arguing in favour of reciprocity.

“If there is a [guaranteed] Italian minority MP in the Slovenian National Assembly, it’s right that we have one Slovenian representative in Italy,” she told the STA.

State Secretary Humar meanwhile said this is a internal matter of Italy. However, since it is at the same time vital for the minority, the office decided to host Friday’s meeting in a bid to raise the awareness about this issue.