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From Protection to Empowerment through Participation: The case of Trentino - A Laboratory for small groups

Simone Penasa

Jens Woelk
Università degli Studi di Trento
Flavio Guella

To move beyond protection and achieve empowerment of national minorities is the main goal of the new law of diversity in a favourable cultural, political and social context. The key for a balanced relationship between majority and minority group(s) is participation. This is particular challenge for small and smallest groups.
Since the entry into force of its Constitution in 1948, Italy represents a pluralistic and promotional legal model: safeguarding linguistic minorities is a binding constitutional obligation for the Italian Republic (art. 6 Italian Constitution). Protection and promotion is interpreted in the Italian system by an asymmetric approach: according to the area of settlement, (historical) linguistic groups are subject to different regulation. Although adopted very late, The Italian legislation of 1999 (Law no. 482) provides an interesting case for the decentralised implementation of European and international standards by a pluralistic and promotional legal system.
Within Italy, the case of the Autonomous Province of Trentino can be considered a paradigmatic example of translating international standards into a domestic regulation. In the provincial territory, three small linguistic groups coexist with the Italian majority population: Ladins (7.500 speakers), Mocheni (2.300) and Cimbri (900). Even within the Province, the three groups are subject to differentiated and detailed regulation: the Provincial Law 6/2008 covers all possible areas of minority-related guarantees adjusting them to the specific situation (and number) of the groups. At the same time, the law considers the three groups as “essential heritage of the whole community” of the Province. The Provincial legislator has expressly based the regulation on international standards and provides for minority-participation; differentiation of empowerment measures; appropriateness and constant updating of legal and administrative rules; monitoring and evaluation of the effective impact of the law by means of ad hoc bodies and procedures.
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