PRIMIS - The protection of linguistic minorities in Italy


The Italian legislation for the protection of linguistic minorities recognizes twelve historical linguistic communities present within the borders of the Italian Republic: Albanians, Catalans, Croats, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Germanic, Greek, Ladin, Occitan, Sardinian, Slovenian. These groups represent around 2.5 million speakers distributed in 1,171 municipalities in 14 regions and are protected by specific national (such as Framework Law 482/1999) and regional laws.

The Italian Republic, since its Constitution, which came into force on January 1st, 1948, states, in the "fundamental principles", the right of citizens to their linguistic identity. Provided by art. 6 of the Constitution, the protection of linguistic minorities in Italy until the end of the 1990s only concerned national minorities. The official use of German in South Tyrol and French in Valle d'Aosta was foreseen by international agreements at the end of the Second World War, while that of the Slovenian of Trieste and Gorizia (but not of Slovenian dialects in the province of Udine) was regulated starting from the Osimo Agreements with FSR Yugoslavia (1975). Article 6 of the Constitution found its first full implementation when Law 482/1999 "Rules on the protection of historical linguistic minorities", of fundamental importance, was approved. Article 2 of the Law recognizes the existence of twelve linguistic minorities defined as "historical", admitting their protection.

Law 482/1999 is part of a significant European regulatory framework and guidelines: art. 2 establishes the protection of the linguistic communities identified "in harmony with the general principles of European and international bodies" and the principles referred to must refer to the contents of the "Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities" and of the "European Charter of Minority Languages", also if the latter has not yet been ratified. The operation of the Law is aimed above all, in addition to the protection and conservation, the enhancement of minority languages and consequently the financial interventions are aimed at three fundamental and strategic sectors for the survival of linguistic minorities: the educational sector, the offices of the public administration and mass media.

The regions where the different linguistic minorities are present also have their own specific laws, of different scope and importance.