Category Archives: State Sovereignty

The Italian Government’s position on the referendum on the self-determination of Catalonia

In September 2017 the Parliament of Catalonia, a region enjoying autonomous status within Spain, passed legislation to enable the holding of a binding referendum on self-determination. Claiming a breach of the indissoluble unity of the Nation as guaranteed by Article 2 of the Constitution, the Spanish Government brought the law before the Spanish Constitutional Court and threatened to suspend the regional autonomy of Catalonia should the referendum be effectively held. The Court pre-emptively suspended the law, and later declared it unconstitutional and void due to both the lack of competence of the Government of Catalonia in calling a referendum on a matter of Spanish sovereign authority and the fact that its approval by the Parliament of Catalonia did not comply with voting procedures. In the weeks preceding the referendum, Spanish law enforcement authorities started to seize ballot boxes and occupy Catalan ministries to search for evidence of the breach of Spanish law. Some of the key figures of the Catalan pro-independence movement were arrested and put under accusation for sedition. Tension between the parties rose, and people started to take the streets both in Madrid and Barcelona.

On 29 September 2017, during an urgent question time taking place at the Chamber of Deputies (861st Meeting, XVII Legislature), the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Vincenzo Amendola, was asked about the Italian Government’s position on the promotion of the referendum on self-determination by the Catalan authorities.

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Italy’s Involvement in Post-Conflict Lybia through the Lybian Coast Guard Training Mission

Post-conflict Libya has been riven by internal conflict, institutional, political and social instability as well as a grave humanitarian crisis. The achievement of stability in Libya has been of concern to the international community, in particular in light of the serious consequences of internal conflict and fragmentation on, inter alia, the fight against terrorism and the Islamic State, as well as against human trafficking and migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea[1].

Historically a prominent international actor in the country, Italy has strongly supported the Government of National Accord, formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, on 17 December 2015[2], and endorsed by the United Nations (UN) Security Council as the sole legitimate executive authority in Libya[3]. On 8 May 2017, during a briefing at the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya (7934th Meeting)[4], the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, declared:

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The Venezuelan Crisis in the Italian Parliamentary Practice of 2017

Popular protests have been taking place in Venezuela at least since 2014: their targets are the Government’s crackdown on civil and political liberties and the grave economic crisis afflicting the country, which has inter alia resulted in skyrocketing inflation and a persistent lack of essential goods.

In December 2015, parliamentary elections were held and won by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of parties opposing President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party (PSUV). In the following months, President Maduro declared the state of emergency and assumed more powers, while the MUD started to collect signatures for a referendum to remove him from office before the natural end of his term. In October 2016, however, the National Electoral Council suspended the referendum process; new demonstrations against this decision took place.

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Negotiation and Signature of the Caen Agreement on the Delimitation of Territorial Waters and Maritime Jurisdiction between Italy and France

On 13 January 2016 the French authorities arrested the Italian fishing vessel Mina with the accusation of violating French territorial waters. The Mina was arrested during fishery of the red shrimp off the Ligurian coast, between Ventimiglia and the Mentone bay, before the Balzi Rossi reef, and was released upon payment of an 8300-euro deposit. Subsequently, the French authorities expressed regret for the arrest, conceding that it ensued from a wrongful determination of the boundary and jurisdiction over the area. The case spotlighted the on-going discussion between Italy and France over the determination of their maritime boundaries and corresponding fishing rights in an area off Liguria and North of Sardinia, pending the ratification of the so-called Caen Agreement.[1] To date, Italy’s and France’s jurisdiction and fishing rights in the respective areas have been regulated de facto by the 1986 Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement[2] and the 1892 Convention on the fishing zone in the Mentone Bay.[3] More specifically, the 1892 Mentone Bay Convention has never entered into force and was negotiated as a modus vivendi providing for a cooperative ground between the countries, whilst leaving their positions legally unprejudiced. As to the Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement, it only determines French and Italian territorial waters in the Strait of Bonifacio. Though regulating the fisheries traditions and practices of French and Italian fishing vessels in a common zone West of the Strait, the Agreement fails to comprehensively establish the Parties’ maritime boundaries and fishing rights. The Caen Agreement, when in force, would thus constitute the first bilateral instrument to effectively determine the maritime boundaries between the two countries and serve as a basis to settle possible disputes.

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Recognition of Palestine: Two Parliamentary Motions Approved

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 383th MEETING, 27 FEBRUARY 2015.

On 27 February 2015, the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament was called upon to vote seven motions concerning initiatives for the recognition of the Palestinian State. Five of them were rejected (Motions nos. 1-00675, 1-00625, 1-00699, 1-00738 and 1-00747). Two were approved, but they do not seem to be fully consistent with each other. A full translation of the text of both motions is given hereunder.

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The Undersecretary of State for Defence on immunity from criminal jurisdiction for the Italian military personnel deployed in Iraq

On 12 December 2014, the Undersecretary of State for Defence, Mr Domenico Rossi, in response to a parliamentary question, clarified the Italian position on the issue of the status of Italian military personnel deployed in Iraq with the task of training Iraqi security forces. In particular, Mr Rossi addressed the issue of immunity of the said personnel from Iraqi criminal jurisdiction, resulting from an exchange of diplomatic notes between the two Governments to that effect, based on the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and stressed its binding force and applicability to the entire territory of Iraq, including the autonomous region of Kurdistan. He stated:

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Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gentiloni, on the recognition of Palestine

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 339th MEETING, 26 NOVEMBER 2014.

On 26 November 2014, during a question time taking place at the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, stated that:

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The Minister of Defence Takes Position on the Storage of Nuclear Weapons on the Italian Territory and the Obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 175th MEETING, 17 FEBRUARY 2014.

On 17 February 2014 the Minister of Defence, Mr. Mario Mauro, reported in writing to the Chamber of Deputies on a request for information concerning the types of nuclear weapons stored in Italy, their location and the compatibility between such practice and the obligations deriving from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Italy is a party. Minister Mauro stated the following:

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A Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the application of anti-piracy laws by India in the Enrica Lexie case

SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 191st MEETING, 13 February 2014

On 13 February 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, intervened before the Senate on the Enrica Lexie case. She expressed Italy’s serious concerns on the application of Indian anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation, which would run against the international efforts in fighting piracy. Moreover, the Minister criticised the stance taken by the UN Secretary-General, according to whom the dispute should be settled on a bilateral basis. The Minister eventually stressed that both NATO and the EU shared Italy’s concerns and supported the internationalisation of the dispute. She stated:

As for NATO, the Secretary-General just confirmed yesterday his sharing of our concerns and warnings in relation to the impact that the case of our marines might have on the entire framework of anti-piracy operations.

Thus, the reply given last Monday to a journalist by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, according to whom a negotiation on a bilateral basis of the marines case would be preferable to the involvement of the UN, despite not being new in its content, raised serious concerns and our greatest regret. The Secretary-General’s response is undoubtedly consistent with the traditional UN approach to judicial disputes between two Member States – a response, perhaps, where a misinterpreted consideration of impartiality toward two important members of the United Nations outbalances the attention that is due to the legal questions and matters of principle raised by Italy.

The point is, however, that the SUA Act, or its use as a ground for the indictment, had a substantial effect on the dispute. I dare to say – with all the respect that Italy has toward the United Nations system, which, moreover, I have always personally and frankly supported – that affirming at this point that such a case is a dispute between States is an irrelevant truism. And I believe that the reason is clear: the ongoing anti-piracy operations, in which we are taking part as our marines did, are grounded on several conventions on terrorism signed under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as on resolutions of the Security Council. These resolutions and these conventions are not only based on the common necessity to fight effectively piracy and terrorism, but also on the no less important necessity to prevent abuses and divergent interpretations of the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist”. These notions are often used extensively, if not in an outright abusive way; it would thus be appropriate to establish a multilateral monitoring on the way national legislations in this field are interpreted and enforced.

What is more, we are no more the only ones to raise such concerns. Following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council that was held last Monday, the European Union took the field to support Italy against the threat of an abuse of a legal framework which risks to jeopardise the entire anti-piracy international action. In this respect, too, I think that the response of the Secretary-General leaves something to be desired, as on this specific point we are not dealing any longer with a divergence or a dispute between Members of the United Nations, but with a critical mass of States, including four Members of the Security Council (two of which permanent Members), which raises a fundamental matter of principle.

She continued by saying that:

Italy has always coherently held the view that the case of the marines trespasses the ambit of bilateral relations, since it concerns the compliance with international law, including the principles of freedom of navigation, exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State, immunity of State agents acting in their official capacity, and the efforts of the international community in the fight against piracy. In fact, I reassert that our marines were taking part in an anti-piracy mission in accordance with international law, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Italian legislation enacting international anti-piracy norms, as the Government has affirmed in international fora. Therefore, we have constantly rejected the legitimacy of the jurisdiction of Indian judges and we have reiterated on several occasions that this jurisdiction is being exercised in contravention of the United Nations conventions on the law of the sea and of customary rules on functional immunity of State officials.

It is on the basis of these very considerations that, following the request of application of the SUA Act, we have further increased our pressures on the UN and, while since January we had decided to raise human rights concerns by means of an action before the High Commissioner, Ms Pillay, whom I am in touch with and will soon meet again in Geneva, as soon as the application of the SUA Act started being considered, we reacted strongly, as we are sure that this element goes far beyond the bilateral sphere.

Finally, she declared:

It is no more, it cannot be anymore a mere bilateral dispute, since what is at stake are the basic principles of the rule of law, and the application of anti-terrorism conventions and two Security Council resolutions authorising both the Atalanta operation (run by the EU) and the one named Ocean Shield .

The original Italian version of this speech can be downloaded here or found at www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/BGT/00747740.pdf.

A Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the application of anti-piracy laws to the Italian marines and on possible human rights violations by India in the Enrica Lexie case

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd AND 4th JOINT COMMISSIONS, XVII LEGISLATURE, 11 February 2014

On 11 February 2014, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, presented before the III and IV Commissions of the Chamber of Deputies and the 3rd and 4th Commissions of the Senate of the Republic the most recent updates in the Enrica Lexie case. The Minister opened her speech by mentioning the request by the Indian prosecutor to apply Indian anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation against the two Italian marines. She then presented the Italian defence and highlighted both the possible violation of human rights on the part of India and the commitment of the EU member states in the affair. She said:

You also know that our lawyers’ reaction has been very strong and, I think, very precise, radically contesting the possibility of using anti-terrorism legislation, as the Indian government had declared in the previous days. It is absolutely evident, in fact, that our marines are not terrorists nor pirates and on that ship, in that zone, on that day, they were acting in their official and institutional capacity in the name of the Italian government.

And she added:

In relation to the violation of human rights due to the lack of an indictment after two years, together with a restriction of their freedom, so that the two aspects are bound, we have also entered into contact with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who reserved the right to assess the situation.

I must acknowledge that all the twenty-eight member states [of the European Union] have had rather positive reactions. This affair is endangering the participation to the entire counter-piracy effort undertaken on the basis of the decisions of the United Nations and of European and national legislation. The High Representative [of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] has spoken of enormous consequences precisely because an entire policy concretely started in the last years is being put into question.

She then concluded:

I recall that until recently, in other times, the same steps were met by declarations according to which this was essentially a bilateral issue between Italy and India. I just want to highlight that the fact that the European Union as such, and not only, came to take on responsibility for this represents a solid position that must be used. I also highlight this as a new element.

The Italian version of the statement can be downloaded here.