Italy set for Justice Reform After Pressure From Brussels

Italy set for Justice Reform After Pressure From Brussels

After decades of discussion, the judiciary in Italy is now to be reformed. The aim is to speed up court proceedings, which often take years.

For decades Italy has been tinkering with reforming the judicial system. The main issue is delayed legal proceedings. In principle, each procedure can go through three instances. The appeal procedures in the second instance, in particular, take an immensely long time; the differences in the individual regions are considerable. The duration of civil and criminal proceedings is many times longer than the European average.

The individual parties wanted to push their views through to the end, and even the strongest force in parliament, the Five Star Party, had tabled dozens of amendments. But the pressure was too great, according to ex-Prime Minister and recently chairman of the five stars, Giuseppe Conte.

When it comes to organized crime – such as the Mafia, sexual violence or terrorism – the judges can request an extension. Otherwise, the processes should take a maximum of three years in the second instance and one and a half years in the third. After these limitation periods, the proceedings will be discontinued. There is no statute of limitations when it comes to life imprisonment, such as murder.

The pressure for a solution was enormous. The EU had demanded that the duration of civil trials be reduced by at least 40 per cent and criminal trials by 25 per cent. Otherwise, Brussels threatened to suspend the billions of euros from the reconstruction program. For Italy, that would be a disaster given the severe slump resulting from the corona pandemic and the longstanding structural problems.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, in particular, pushed the pace. He brought the question of confidence into the discussion. A break in the governing coalition was in the room. Now the judiciary is to get more staff in order to reduce the processing backlog quickly.

Image by Roxyuru (wikimedia) / Attributions International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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