Author Archives: Marco Pertile

The Diplomatic Row between Italy and Austria over Vienna’s Draft Laws on Dual Nationality and Consular Assistance for German- and Ladin-speaking South Tyroleans

German-speakers in the Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano – Alto Adige (Autonomous Province Bolzano – South Tyrol, hereinafter “South Tyrol”) constitute 69.6% of the total population of the Province, the rest belonging to the Italian (25.8%) and Ladin (4.5%) ethno-linguistic groups.[1] South Tyrol enjoys a high level of self-government and fiscal autonomy, according to Article 6 of the Italian Constitution,[2] the provisions of the 1946 Accordo De Gasperi – Gruber (De Gasperi – Gruber Agreement) between Italy and Austria,[3] also known as Paris Agreement, and the 1972 second Autonomy Statute for South Tyrol.[4] Under the Paris Agreement, in particular, Austria exercises a protective function for South Tyrol, historically monitoring progress towards the attainment of autonomy by the Province. To this extent, in 1960, Austria submitted the question of the implementation of South Tyrol’s autonomy to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The dispute was settled on 19 June 1992, by means of a discharge issued by both States before the UN, after all the measures that make South Tyrol’s autonomy a unique model of minorities’ protection had been enacted.[5]

Against this background, in 2017, the decision of the Austrian Government to support a reform of its domestic legislation favoring the acquisition of dual citizenship by German and Ladin South-Tyroleans became a significant source of tension between the two neighboring countries. Indeed, the debate on the attribution of the Austrian citizenship to South Tyroleans can be traced back to at least a decade before. Since 2006, the autonomist party Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP – South Tyrolean People’s Party) had lobbied for the attribution of Austrian citizenship to German-speaking South Tyroleans.[6] Already in 2009, a first draft law by the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ – Freedom Party of Austria),[7] although subsequently rejected by the Austrian Parliament, prompted a reaction by the Ministro degli Affari esteri e della Cooperazione internazionale (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Mr Franco Frattini, who, in a diplomatic note transmitted to Vienna, defined the proposal as a “non-friendly gesture towards Italy”.[8] The proposal for a dual citizenship for South-Tyroleans was further discussed following a 2011 motion filed by the Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano (South Tyrol’s Council)[9] and a 2013 citizens’ initiative,[10] for which on 9 April 2014 the Austrian Parliament instituted an ad hoc subcommittee, the Südtirol Unterausschuss (South Tyrol Subcommittee), within the Außenpolitische Ausschuss (Foreign Affairs Committee).

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Italy’s Reaction to the Use of Chemical Weapons at Khan Shaykhun and to the US Attack on a Syrian Airfield

On 4 April 2017, it was reported that the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun – controlled at the time by the Tahrir Al-Sham Alliance – had been the object of an airstrike by the air force of the Government of President Bashar Al Assad.[1] As a result of the airstrike, chemical agents poisoned large numbers of civilians. 

In a report released on 30 June 2017, the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) estimated the number of deaths “as approximately 100 people” and determined that “Sarin or a Sarin-like substance” had been used as a weapon in Khan Shaykhun.[2] It took until 27 October 2017 for the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to take position on the responsibility for the attack and affirm that the Leading Panel of the mechanism itself was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.[3]

In the aftermath of the attack, however, several countries condemned the action and the United States (US), the United Kingdom and France openly called into question the responsibility of the Syrian Government.[4] The US President, Mr. Donald Trump, condemned the attack as “intolerable” and openly blamed the inaction of his predecessor Barack Obama, who, after establishing “a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons did nothing”.[5] On its part, the Syrian government denied any involvement in the use of chemical weapons.[6] The Government of the Russian Federation offered alternative explanations of the events, mentioning the fact that the Syrian Air Force could have “bombed an underground factory producing chemical warfare agents” or alluding to a possible “provocation by the terrorists”.[7] Within the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a draft resolution condemning the attack – tabled by France, the United Kingdom and the US – was vetoed by the Russian Federation, with the abstention of China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.[8] 

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A Statement at the Human Rights Council on Behalf of the EU on the Situation in the Gaza Strip

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, 21st SPECIAL SESSION, HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, INCLUDING EAST JERUSALEM, 23 JULY 2014.

On 23 July 2014, the Permanent Representative of Italy at the Human Rights Council, Amb. Maurizio Enrico Serra, expressed the position of the EU with respect to the Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The statement took place in the context of a debate on Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which has started on 7 July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, and on the escalation of rocket fire against Israel. At the outset, Amb. Serra specified that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein aligned themselves with his statement. 

He then stated: 

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The Position of the Uniting for Consensus Group on the Tenth Round of Negotiations on Security Council Reform – Amb. Cardi

TENTH ROUND OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL NEGOTIATIONS ON THE QUESTION OF EQUITABLE REPRESENTATION ON AND INCREASE IN THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND OTHER MATTERS RELATED TO THE COUNCIL, 12 DECEMBER 2013.

On 12 December 2013, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations made the following statement on behalf of the “Uniting for Consensus” (UfC) Group:

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A Statement by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, on the Datagate

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 122nd MEETING, 20 DECEMBER 2013.

On 20 November 2013, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, gave an urgent report before the Chamber of Deputies on the so-called Datagate, the scandal initiated by the declarations of Edward Snowden. Mr Letta described how the US National Security Agency (NSA) could monitor the flow of metadata of Internet communications at a global level (PRISM Programme). Another surveillance programme (Tempora) would have been established by the British intelligence to monitor communications in submarine fibre-optic cables. In light of this background, he stated:  

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The Debate in the Sixth Committee on the Obligation to Extradite or Prosecute (Aut Dedere Aut Judicare)

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10), 4 NOVEMBER 2013.

On 4 November 2013, during the debate in the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on the Report of the International Law Commission, the Italian delegate, Mr Mauro Politi, submitted the comments of his delegation on the work conducted by the ILC on the “Obligation to Extradite or Prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare)”. He stated:

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The Debate in the Sixth Committee on the Protection of the Environment during Armed Conflicts

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10).

On 4 November 2013, during the debate in the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on the Report of the International Law, the Italian delegate, Mr. Mauro Politi, submitted the comments of his delegation on the topic of “Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflicts”. Mr. Politi noted that the Report of the ILC indicated that “an informal dialogue” had taken place between the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Marie Jacobsson, and the members of the Commission on elements such as scope and methodology, the general direction and the timetable for future work. In this respect, he observed what follows:

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The Long-Term Programme of Work of the ILC, Including Comments on the Rule of Law

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10), 29 OCTOBER 2013.

On 29 October 2013, before the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Min. Plenipotentiary Andrea Tiriticco, Director for Legal Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, expressed some remarks on the long-term programme of work of the International Law Commission, with reference inter alia to the topic of the Rule of Law. He stated:

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The Work of the ILC on the Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10), 29 OCTOBER 2013.

On 29 October 2013, before the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Min. Plenipotentiary Andrea Tiriticco, Director for Legal Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, expressed the position of the Italian Government on the work of the International Law Commission on the topic of the “Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction”. He stated:

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The Work of the ILC on Subsequent Agreements and Subsequent Practice in the Interpretation of Treaties

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SIXTH COMMITTEE (LXVIII Session), DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION ON THE WORK OF ITS SIXTY-FIFTH SESSION (UN Doc. A/68/10), 29 OCTOBER 2013.

On 29 October 2013, before the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Min. Plenipotentiary Andrea Tiriticco, Director for Legal Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, expressed the position of the Italian Government on the work of the International Law Commission on the topic of “Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties”. He stated:

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