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The Decisions No. 348 and 349/2007 of the Italian Constitutional Court: The Efficacy of the European Convention in the Italian Legal System.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019


For the first time, national provisions governing the quantification of respective compensation amounts due for public purposes expropriation and for unlawful expropriation were declared unconstitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court's decisions No. 348 and 349, issued on 24 October 2007, because they were in contrast with the international obligations stated in Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (hereinafter the “ECvHR”), Article 1.

Copyright © 2008 by German Law Journal GbR 


1 By this term we mean the phenomenon of acquisition by right of occupancy (occupazione acquisitiva), which occurs when the State gets the property of an expropriated land, not in force of a proper expropriation order, but by building public facilities on it.Google Scholar

2 All the decisions of the Italian Constitutional Court are available at Scholar

3 As amended by the constitutional law No. 3 of 2001.Google Scholar

4 See the report compiled by the Italian House of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) on the web site (2007) and (2006) where the sanctions inflicted to Italy by the Court of Strasbourg in the last two years are referred to.Google Scholar

5 See Scordino v. Italy, May 29, 2006. For a careful overview of the ECtHR's case-law on this issue (and in particular of the decision Jahn and Others v. Germany, No. 46720/99; 72203/01; 72552/01), and for a description of the effects of this jurisprudence in Germany see U. Deutsche, Expropriation without Compensation – the European Court of Human Rights sanctions German Legislation expropriating the Heirs of “New Farmers”, 6 German Law Journal 1367 (2005).Google Scholar

6 As requested instead under Article 35, para. 1, of the ECvHR.Google Scholar

7 Artcile 35, paragraph 1 reads: “The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law, and within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken.” The domestic remedy, however, needs to be effective, see Exhaustion of Domestic Remedies, from the ECtHR Key case-law issues series, available at the Court's website (, § 10: “In determining whether any particular remedy meets the criteria of availability and effectiveness, regard must be had to the particular circumstances of the individual case. Account must be taken not only of formal remedies available, but also of the general legal and political context in which they operate as well as the personal circumstances of the applicant (Van Oosterwijck v. Belgium, judgment of 6 November 1980, §§ 36–40; Akdivar v. Turkey, judgment of 16 September 1996, §§ 68–69; Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, judgment of 24 February 2005, §§ 116–117; Isayeva and Others v. Russia, judgment of 24 February 2005, §§ 152–153).” In addition, see A. Guazzarotti, La CEDU e l'ordinamento nazionale: tendenze giurisprudenziale e nuove esigenze teoretiche, XXVI Quad. Cost. 497 (2006). The Author here mentions, among others, the cases Scozzari and others, No. 67790/01; Serrilli, No. 77822/01; Binotti No. 2, No. 71603/01.Google Scholar

8 The sum obtained is based on the average between the market value and the reappraised rental income (reddito dominicale rivalutato).Google Scholar

9 This constitutional plea was introduced incidentally (in via incidentale) before the Constitutional Court through three separate referral orders issued by the Supreme Court of Cassation: one on May 29, 2006, and two on October 19, 2006, respectively registered in the 2006 orders’ register at No. 402 and 681, and in the 2007 orders’ register No. 2.Google Scholar

10 This constitutional question was pledged before the Court with the referral orders issued by the Supreme Court dated May 20, 2006, and by the Palermo Court of Appeal on June 29, 2006, respectively registered in the orders’ 2006 register of the Court at No. 401 and 557.Google Scholar

11 As for expropriation for public purposes, the conflict arises only when the public interest pursued is not of a fundamental nature.Google Scholar

12 Two different judges wrote the two decisions. Justice Gaetano Silvestri wrote decision No. 348, whereas justice Giuseppe Tesauro wrote decision No. 349.Google Scholar

13 See Scordino 2006, § 82: “Having regard to the margin of appreciation Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 allows national authorities to choose the opportune balance; the Court considers that the price paid to the applicants did not bear a reasonable relation to the value of the expropriated property (see Papachelas v. Greece [GC], no. 31423/96, § 49, and Platakou v. Greece, no. 38460/97, § 54). It follows that the fair balance was upset.“ On the Scordino case, see also S. Mirate, Scordino ultimo atto: la Corte europea torna a “condannare” l'occupazione acquisitiva e indennizza al valore attuale il terreno occupato, in 88 Responsabilità Civile e Previdenza, 2007, 1053 and ff.Google Scholar

14 See Lönnroth v. Sweden, No. 7151/75; 7152/75 § 69.Google Scholar

15 See Pressos Compania Naviera S.A. and Others v. Belgium, No. 17849/91, § 38; The former King of Greece and Others v. Greece [GC], No. 25701/94, §§ 89–90.Google Scholar

16 See Chassagnou and Others v. France [GC], No. 25088/94, 28331/95 and 28443/95, § 75.Google Scholar

17 See James and Others v. The United Kingdom, No. 8793/79, § 54, Broniowski v. Poland [GC], No. 31443/96, § 182, The Former King of Greece and Others v. Greece [GC] (just satisfaction), No. 25701/94, § 78.Google Scholar

18 Chassagnou, supra note 16.Google Scholar

19 The Court has held that less than full compensation may also be necessary, a fortiori, where property is taken for the purposes of “such fundamental changes of a country's constitutional system as the transition from monarchy to republic.” See The Former King of Greece, cited above, § 89. The Court has gone over this principle again in the case of Broniowski v. Poland, in the context of the country's transition towards a democratic regime, and has specified that rules regulating ownership relations within the country “involving a wide-reaching but controversial legislative scheme with significant economic impact for the country as a whole” could involve decisions restricting compensation for the taking or restitution of property to a level below its market value. The Court has also reiterated these principles regarding the law's enactment in “the exceptional context of German reunification.” See Von Maltzan and Others v. Germany (dec.) [GC], nos. 71916/01, 71917/01 and 10260/02, §§ 77 and 111–12. In the Papachelas v. Greece case ([GC], No. 31423/96), in which the issue concerned more than 150 properties’ expropriation, including part of the applicants’ property, for the purpose of building a major road, the Court held that the compensation awarded to the applicants had not upset the fair balance between opposing interests as it was just slightly lower than the certified value of the land.Google Scholar

20 On the divergences existing between Italian constitutional case–law and the Court of Strasbourg's jurisprudence see F. Scoca, Indennità di espropriazione: la diversa sensibilità della Consulta e della Corte di Strasburgo, available at:, May 31, 2006.Google Scholar

21 See Belvedere-Alberghiera v. Italia, No. 31524/96, Colazzo e Serrao v. Italia, No. 63633/00, Sciarrotta v. Italia, No. 14793/02; Immobiliare Cerro S.A.S. v. Italia, No. 35638/03).Google Scholar

22 See among others, Immobiliare Cerro No. 35638/03, Scordino v. Italy No. 3, No. 43662/98, Pasculli v. Italy, No. 36818/97.Google Scholar

23 This change of circumstances followed the abovementioned 2001 constitutional reform and the introduction of the new Article 117, para. 1, of the Constitution.Google Scholar

24 On this point see Bin, R., Le potestà legislative regionali dalla Bassanini ad oggi, in Le fonti del diritto regionale alla ricerca di una nuova identità 140 (A. Ruggeri, G. Silvestri eds., 2001).Google Scholar

25 Namely Article 117 is in part V of the Constitution, called Le Regioni, le Province, i Comuni. Google Scholar

26 See Pinelli, C., I limiti generali alla potestà legislativa statale e regionale e di rapporti con l'ordinamento internazionale e comunitario, 126 Foro Italiano 194 (2001); E. Cannizzaro, La riforma federalista della costituzione e gli obblighi internazionali, 96 Rivista di diritto internazionale 921 (2001).Google Scholar

27 In general, on the interposed provision's mechanism, see M. Siclari, Le norme interposte nel giudizio di costituzionalità (1992). The scholars have minted the wording “interposed provision” to individualize the cases in which a constitutional standard can be invoked only indirectly in a constitutional judicial proceeding, because different primary provisions are inserted between the constitutional standard and the reported provisions (suspicious of being unconstitutional). See also, M. Siclari, La tecnica delle norme interposte, 133 Foro Italiano 337 (1998) (in which he recalls an old precedent of the Italian Constitutional Court, decision No. 46 of 1961, referred to the Convention of Paris, dated September 5, 1946, between Italy and Austria).Google Scholar

28 See, among others, Guazzarotti, A., La CEDU e l'ordinamento nazionale: tendenze giurisprudenziali e nuove esigenze teoretiche, 26 Quad. Cost. 505 (2006); Cartabia, M., La CEDU e l'ordinamento italiano: rapporti tra fonti, rapporti tra giurisdizioni, in All'incrocio tra Costituzione e Cedu, Il rango delle norme della Convenzione e l'efficacia interna delle sentenze di Strasburgo 11 (R. Bin, G. Brunelli, A. Pugiotto, P. Veronesi eds., 2007).Google Scholar

29 See decision No. 348, para 4.4.Google Scholar

30 See decision No. 349, para 6.2.Google Scholar

31 See decision No. 349, para 6.2, and No.348, para 4.7.Google Scholar

32 See decision No. 348, para. 4.7 and 5.Google Scholar

33 On the tendency of the Constitutional Court to underline the common points between its jurisprudence and ECtHR's jurisprudence, as a first step of dialogue between the two Courts, see Napoli, C., La nuova collocazione della CEDU nel sistema delle fonti e le conseguenti prospettive di dialogo tra le Corti, 28 Quaderni Costituzionali 139 (2008).Google Scholar

34 See decision No. 348, para. 5.6.Google Scholar

35 As the Court, itself, states: “this compensation is below the minimum threshold of acceptability for an indemnification granted to dispossessed owners, as the even limited amount offered is further diminished because of taxes equaling – as the claimant notes – the level of about 20 per cent. The due sacrifice that public interest can demand cannot end up by consisting in the virtual nullification of the good possessed” (decision No. 348, para. 5.7).Google Scholar

36 See Italian Constitutional Court decisions No. 148/1999 and No. 24/2000.Google Scholar

37 It applied to unlawful expropriations carried out before September 30, 1996.Google Scholar

38 On this point, see Guazzarotti, A., La Corte e la CEDU: il problematico confronto di standard di tutela alla luce dell'articolo 117, co. 1, Cost, 53 Giurisprudenza Costituzionale (forthcoming 2008), who also underlines that, in its decision No. 349/2007, the Italian Court borrows one of the main arguments the ECtHR had used to blame the practice of unlawful expropriation, namely the “need for granting the administrative action's legality and the public officers’ liability principle for damages to third parties.” This reasoning apparently counters the position adopted by the Italian Court in the decision No. 148/1999, in which it denied that Articles 28 and 97 of the Constitution could be standards of review for the challenged provisions on unlawful expropriation constitutionality. In fact, this ambiguity is due to a bigger divergence between the Constitutional Court's case law and the ECtHR's, as regards the potential use of the social function of property to counterbalance the otherwise neat rule whereunder only lawful expropriations or full compensation are admitted. According to the Constitutional Court's case law, indeed, the social function (as pursuant to Article 42 of the Constitution) could justify the property deprivation suffered by an individual due to unlawful expropriation procedures, provided that the buildings on the land are of some public interest. On the contrary, the ECtHR maintains that it is not even possible to access the stage of balancing private and public interests when the expropriation lacks a legal justification (as it is in the case of acquisition by right of occupancy's Italian practice (occupazione acquisitive)).Google Scholar

39 These provisions apply also on currently ongoing expropriation procedures, unless the expropriated owner accepted, or agreed with, the compensation proposal by the Public Authority, or the determination of the compensation has already become irrevocable.Google Scholar

40 See Travi, A., In tema di compatibilità della legge italiana con la Cedu, 133 Foro italiano 41 (2008). The Author stresses how the Court had stated, in the No. 348 decision, that the legislator could adjust the compensation mechanism consistently with Article 42 of the Constitution, without being obliged to provide for the full compensation. On how the Constitutional Court often provides the necessary instruction to implement its rulings, and on the difference existing between the No. 348 and the No. 349 decisions as regards the quantification of the compensation, see Cappuccio, L., La Corte costituzionale interviene sui rapporti tra convenzione europea dei diritti dell'uomo e Costituzione, 133 Foro italiano 50 (2008).Google Scholar

41 For the debate about the position of the ECvHR in the Italian normative hierarchy, see D. Tega, La Cedu e l'ordinamento italiano, in I diritti in azione 71 (M. Cartabia ed., 2007). For a specific reference to the constitutional rulings commented here, see S. Bartole, Considerazioni brevi sulle possibili alternative, in All'incrocio tra Costituzione e Cedu 27 (R. Bin, G. Brunelli, A. Pugiotto, P. Veronesi eds., 2007).Google Scholar

42 See 349, para. 6.1; 348, para. 3.4.Google Scholar

43 See R. Quadri, Diritto Internazionale Pubblico (1956).Google Scholar

44 See for instance the membership of the UN Convention for the rights of the Child, which totals now 193 members.Google Scholar

45 Article 11 reads: “Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression against the freedoms of others peoples and as a means for settling international controversies; it agrees, on conditions of equality with other states, to the limitations of sovereignty necessary for an order that ensures peace and justice among Nations; it promotes and encourages international organizations having such ends in view.”Google Scholar

46 See decision 349, para. 6.1.Google Scholar

47 See decision 348 para. 3.3: “this Court had already excluded [even before acknowledging the direct effect of community legislation in 1984] that Article 11 could apply [to ECHR norms], as no limitation to national sovereignty can be envisaged, as concerns the specific treaty law under examination.”Google Scholar

48 As A. Guazzarotti notes in his essay, Guazzarotti, A., La Consulta guarda in faccia agli obblighi internazionali e alla CEDU, 14 Studium Iuris 275 (2008). It is worth mentioning that Italy has also ratified the XIV Protocol, that foresees an infringement procedure if a member State does not observe an ECtHR's decision. This mechanism will obviously strengthen the CoE system; the Protocol will enter into force upon full ratification (so far only Russia has not ratified it yet).Google Scholar

49 See for instance Ruggeri, A., La CEDU alla ricerca di una nuova identità, tra prospettiva formale-astratta e prospettiva assiologico-sostanziale d'inquadramento sistematico (a prima lettura di Corte cost. nn. 348 e 349 del 2007), available at: (noticing that “The Court relies on an old 1980 precedent, to which it explicitly refers, where however the extraneousness of the European Convention to Article 11 was not proven, as it is not proven today.”).Google Scholar

50 Indeed, the Court has started in its decisions, to ask the States not only to redress the single violation ascertained during the trial, but also to adopt structural solutions to avoid its occurrence in the future. This proves that the ECtHR is “constitutionally” concerned in the overall conduct of the State, rather than being just “jurisdictionally” conferred the authority to adjudicate rights in single proceedings.Google Scholar

51 See also the reasoning made by the Court itself in its No.183 decision of 1973, in which the membership to the European Community is fully justified under the terms of Article 11, and the extent of this norm is explained into details.Google Scholar

52 See A. Ruggeri, supra note 49, at 3. The Author explains how the Court interprets Article 11 as a “snapshot norm,” which portrays the EC order. This explains why the Court, while verifying the possible application of Article 11, feels the need for reassessing “the distinction between the ECHR norms and community norms” based on the lack of direct effect in the domestic order of the conventional legislation, which is binding on States only.Google Scholar

53 See decision No. 348, para. 3.3.Google Scholar

54 See Zanghì, C., La Corte costituzionale risolve un primo contrasto con la Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo ed interpreta l'art. 117 della Costituzione: le sentenze n. 348 e 349 del 2007, 8, available at: Scholar

55 In other words, the Court confuses limitations of sovereignty, that may be permitted unilaterally by the States, and cessions of sovereignty, that imply a legal order receiving the competence surrendered by the State, like the EU.Google Scholar

56 See 349, para. 6.1Google Scholar

57 Which reads: “The provisions of this Charter are addressed to the institutions and bodies of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law. They shall, therefore, respect the rights, observe the principles and promote the application thereof in accordance with their respective powers.”Google Scholar

58 See decision No. 349, para. 6.1. In addition, see the European Court of Justice order C-302/06 of January 25, 2007, František Koval'ský: “De měme, la situation des requérant et intervenants au principal ne relève aucunement du champ d'application du droit communautaire. En effet, le juge national n'a pas établi en quoi la situation d'un propriétaire, dont le terrain est occupé par des installations électriques et qui, en contrepartie de cette occupation, demande le versement d'une somme à titre de compensation, peut se rattacher au droit communautaire.”Google Scholar

59 On the Lisbon treaty and fundamental rights protection see Passaglia, P., Il trattato di Lisbona: qualche passo indietro per andare avanti, 133 Foro italiano 43 (2008); and Ruggeri, A., Ancora in tema di rapporti tra CEDU e Costituzione: profili teorici e questioni pratiche, available at: Scholar

60 See the statement by the Secretary General Terry Davis, Press release 699/2007 (Strasbourg, October 19, 2007): “I welcome the fact that Article 6 of the new Reform Treaty establishes the legal basis for EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. EU accession to this Council of Europe Convention will close an important gap in human rights protection in Europe, and people will no longer be deprived of the right to complain about abuses of their human rights committed in areas in which EU member states have transferred their powers to Brussels. Of course, I can appreciate that this accession can only take place after the Reform Treaty has entered into force, and that it is likely to take some time. In the meantime we will need to resolve several legal, administrative and financial issues. All these arrangements will need to be agreed not only by the EU, but also by the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe. That is why the talks should start immediately.”Google Scholar

61 See C- 540/03 of June 27, 2006, Parliament v. Council, dealing with an action of annulment (as pursuant Article 230 TEC) of the last subparagraph of Art 4, para. 1 and 6, and Article 8 of the 2003/86 directive on the right to family reunification.Google Scholar

62 See judgment of June 27, 2006, para. 30.Google Scholar

63 See judgment of June 27, 2006, para. 35, 36 and 37. In particular the Court recalls, inter alia, Case C-260/89 ERT [1991] ECR I-2925, paragraph 41; Opinion 2/94 [1996] ECR I-1759, paragraph 33; Case C-274/99 P. Connolly v. Commission [2001] ECR I-1611, paragraph 37; Case C-94/00 Roquette Frères [2002] ECR I-9011, paragraph 25; Case C-112/00 Schmidberger [2003] ECR I-5659, paragraph 71; and Case C-36/02 Omega [2004] ECR I-9609, paragraph 33. On this point see Gennusa, M. E., La Cedu e l'Unione europea, in I diritti in azione 91 (M. Cartabia ed., 2007).Google Scholar

64 See Tega, D., Le sentenze della Corte Costituzionale nn. 348 e 349 del 2007: la Cedu da fonte ordinaria a fonte “sub-costituzionale” del diritto, 28 Quaderni Costitutionali 133 (2008); Pinelli, C., Sul trattamento giurisdizionale della Cedu e delle leggi con essa confliggenti, available at:; and A. Ruggeri, supra note 49.Google Scholar

65 Indeed, in decision No. 38 and 159 of 1973 and No. 1150 of 1988, Article 2 of the Constitution is used by the Constitutional Court in order to give constitutional value to some rights recognized in international treaties such as the right to privacy, based on Article 8 and Article 10 of the ECvHR, that are recalled together with Article 2. More clearly, with the decision No. 388 of 1999, the Court affirms that the human rights guaranteed by the ECvHR and by other international conventions find expression and guarantee in the Article 2 of the Constitution; under the general referral to fundamental human rights therein included, moreover, the different formulations used to express them integrate each other, and mutually complete each other in the interpretation, besides the potential coincidence that there could be in two charters on the definition of the same right. On the interpretation of Article 2 as a standard that can give a constitutional value to any right see A. Barbera, Commento all'art. 2, in Commentario della Costituzione, 50 (G. Branca ed., 1975).Google Scholar

66 See decision No. 188 of 1980 cited above, where the Court states that it is not possible to conceive a constitutionality question founded on conventional provisions used as standard of review.Google Scholar

67 See decision No. 349, para. 6.1.1.Google Scholar

68 We use this term to simplify, although the constitutional status is never reached by the interposed international law provision. Besides, the aforementioned mechanism never has the ability to sort this effect, see N. Pignatelli, La dilatazione della tecnica della “interposizione” (e del giudizio costituzionale), 28 Quaderni Costituzionali 140 (2008).Google Scholar

69 On this kind of control, see Mirate, S., Indennità di esproprio e risarcimento da occupazione acquisitiva: la Corte costituzionale inaugura il giudizio di convenzionalità ex art. 117 Cost., 89 Responsabilità Civile e Previdenza 73 (2008); Mirate, S., Giustizia amministrativa e Convenzione Europea dei Diritti dell'Uomo. L'altro diritto europeo in Italia, Francia e Inghilterra (2007) (published a few weeks before the decisions No. 348 and 349).Google Scholar

70 See part VI below.Google Scholar

71 See Ruggeri, A., supra note 49. See also Conti, R., La Corte costituzionale viaggia verso i diritti CEDU: prima fermata verso Strasburgo, 25 Corriere Giuridico 206 (2008) (“It seems like the rank of the Convention as a source does not protect the rights of the Convention from those internal domestic regulatory provisions implementing rights set forth under the Constitution.”).Google Scholar

72 Not to mention the risk that the prevalence of the domestic norm on the international one could entail the State's international responsibility.Google Scholar

73 See Ruggeri, A., supra note 49; and Conti, R., supra note 71, at 214.Google Scholar

74 See Sciarabba, V., Nuovi punti fermi (e questioni aperte) nei rapporti tra fonti e corti nazionali ed internazionali, available at: Scholar

75 See the last words of para. 6.2 of decision No. 349, read “In this way [that is, by checking the ECvHR's conformity with the Constitution] the correct balance is struck.” The fact that the two decisions have been written by two different judges could help us appreciate the difference. In particular, a constitutional law professor wrote decision No. 348 (the one calling for the balancing moment), whereas a Community law professor wrote the decision No. 349 (which virtually ignores the aforementioned balancing aspect).Google Scholar

76 See decision No. 348, para. 3.3.Google Scholar

77 See decision No. 348, ibidem. Google Scholar

78 See the recent decision issued by the Court of Pistoia on March 23, 2007: the judge disapplied Article 80, para. 19 of Law 388 of 2000, concerning the immigrant's right to the social allowance, because it conflicted with Article 14 ECvHR. On this point see also Court of Genoa, decision of November 23, 2000; Court of Appeal of Florence decisions No. 570 of 2005 and No. 1403 of 2006, and the Administrative Supreme Court (Consiglio di Stato), I Section, decision No. 1926 of 2002, whereby the Administrative Supreme Court carefully considers the legal ground of the disapplication, reflecting upon the direct effect of the Convention. See also the Court of Appeal of Rome decision of April 11, 2002, in which Article 6, para. 3, let. c), of the ECvHR is applied directly instead of the relevant Italian provision. Even within the Supreme Court's case law different trends could be identified: with the decision No. 28507 of 2005, given on Plenary Session, the Supreme Court recalls the decision No. 10542 of 2002, which synthetically calls for the obligation to disapply the internal provision conflicting with the treaty source bearing direct effect. Besides these decisions, however, the orders of referrals that triggered the constitutionality trial under consideration must be taken into account, where the Supreme Court denies that the ordinary judge can disapply provisions conflicting with the ECvHR.Google Scholar

79 Acknowledged by the Court in the decision No. 349, para. 6.2.Google Scholar

80 We must here mention how the Constitutional Court has regularly referred to the disapplication practice described here using the “non application” formula, in order not to stress the unavoidable precedence EC law has on the domestic norm: the mere non application (i.e. the suspension) of the domestic provision sounds less embarrassing than its neat disapplication (which seems to imply a negative judgment on the disapplied norm). See the decision No. 168 of 1991, where the Court expressly talks about the effect of “non application” created by the EC legislation, and advices to avoid the use of the “disapplication” term.Google Scholar

81 See for instance the position of the Supreme Court in its decision of April 5, 2005, No. 7923: “the Convention's provisions impose on the contracting States legal obligations bearing a direct effect” and “[the Convention's provisions] create rights and duties upon all subjects.” For a list of similar decisions by the Supreme Court, see M. Pacini, Verso la disapplicazione delle disposizioni legislative contrarie alla Cedu?, 13 Giornale di Diritto Amministrativo 389 (2007). In addition, see Commissione Tributaria regionale Lombardia of September 19, 2000, calling for “the direct application of ECvHR's norms by administrative and jurisdictional [State] bodies.”Google Scholar

82 O. Pollicino rightly stressed the risk of this discriminatory drift, in occasion of the STALS conference held at the Sant'Anna School of Legal Studies, Pisa, on February 25, 2008. See how this concept is developed in his forthcoming article. O. Pollicino, “The Italian Constitutional Court At the Crossroad Between Constitutional Parochialism and Cooperative Constitutionalism.” Case note on judgments no. 348 and 349 of 2007, 4 European Constitutional Law Review (forthcoming 2008). In particular, he foresees a risk of discrimination due to the different application that ECvHR norms can have, “depending upon whether they apply only to domestic situations (in which case they have an intermediate level between ordinary statutes and constitutional law) or to situations of European law relevance (where, through their qualification as general principles of European law, they have a constitutional status).” See for instance the decision of the Supreme Court (Criminal Section) dated February 6, 2003, where the Supreme Court, after stating that EC law has a direct effect which supersedes conflicting domestic law, apparently skips a middle step and directly ends up by saying that “the norm under Article 2, No. 2, of the Convention … could not but find direct application.” It seems that the Court here implicitly considers the conventional norm as forming part of the EC law. Contra, see Supreme Court, Criminal III Section, decision No. 254 of January 12, 1999, where Article 5, No. 5 of the Convention was deemed to serve as a general guideline, and not to have a directly applicable content.Google Scholar

83 As for expropriation for public purposes, see order No. 616 of 2007 of the Court of Appeal of Venice and order No. 780 of 2007 of the Court of Appeal of Florence. As for unlawful expropriation, see order No. 712 of 2007 of the Court of Appeal of Naples, recently handed down by the Constitutional Court with the decision No. 66 of 2008, in which the Court, referring to the decision No. 349/2007, returned the constitutional question to the judge. All these orders are based on the violation of the cited Article 117, para. 1.Google Scholar

84 See Supreme Court, order May 20, 2006, No. 402, for a similar reasoning.Google Scholar

85 For a comparative overview on this issue, see L. Montanari, I diritti dell'uomo nell'area europea tra fonti internazionali e fonti interne (2002); L. Montanari, La difficile definizione dei rapporti con la CEDU alla luce del nuovo art. 117, un confronto con Francia e Regno Unito, 10 Dir. Pub. Comp. Eu. 204 (2008).Google Scholar

86 See F. Müller and T. Richter, Report on the Bundesverfassungsgericht's (Federal Constitutional Court) Jurisprudence in 2005/2006, 9 German Law Journal 164 (2008).Google Scholar

87 See para. 32 of the decision.Google Scholar

88 See. Palermo, F., Il Tribunale federale e la teoria selettiva del controlimiti, 25 Quad. Cost. 181 (2005). More specifically, if the judge does not take the ECvHR and its interpretation into account, a Verfassungbeschwerde can be lodged, challenging the domestic norm for violating the relevant fundamental right as set forth in the Constitution together with Article 20, para. 3. For a detailed analysis of the decision under consideration, see also A. Di Martino, L'efficacia delle decisioni della Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo nel diritto tedesco: il significato del Görgülu-Beschluß per un tutela multilivello dei diritti, 8 Dir. Pub. Comp. Eu. 911 (2006); A. Di Martino, L'efficacia delle sentenze della Corte EDU nel diritto interno: proposta per una soluzione interpretativa del contrasto tra giudicati alla luce di una pronuncia del Bundesverfassungsgericht, in All'incrocio tra Costituzione e Cedu 99 (R. Bin, G. Brunelli, A. Pugiotto, P. Veronesi eds., 2007).Google Scholar

89 As for the personality law, it is worth remembering the decision of the ECtHR of June 24, 2004, Hannover v. Germany, case No. 59320/00, in which the ECtHR's interpretation of the extent of the right to privacy is different from the interpretation given by the BVerfG in a decision on the same case only a few months before.Google Scholar

90 See. Palermo, F., supra note 88, at 184.Google Scholar

91 See. Violini, L., L'indipendenza del giudice e il rispetto del diritto internazionale secondo una recente decisione del BVerfG: bilanciamento o prevalenza dei principi costituzionali nazionali?, 7 Dir. Pub. Comp. Eur. 1014 (2005).Google Scholar

92 The technique of the consistent interpretation is a technique which the ordinary judge is obliged to apply before lodging a challenge of constitutionality before the Constitutional Court: before asking the Court's intervention, indeed, the judge must try to find an interpretation according to which no conflict between the statutory norm and the Constitution can be envisaged. In fact, there has been occasions where the duty to interpret the provision consistently with the Constitution was absolutely tied with the duty to carry out a Convention-consistent interpretation, see for instance decision No. 413 of 2004, where the Court states: “the Constitution-consistent interpretation is strengthened by some important norms, even of supra-national nature. […] The ECvHR […] provides the right for a just compensation for illegal detention, without any exception.” See on this point B. Randazzo, La Convenzione Europea dei Diritti dell'Uomo nella giurisprudenza costituzionale, available at:, September 2007; B. Randazzo, Costituzione e Cedu: il giudice delle leggi apre una «finestra» su Strasburgo, 14 Giornale di diritto amministrativo 25 (2008).Google Scholar

93 We owe this sharp argument to N. Pignatelli, supra note 68.Google Scholar

94 Not to mention the obligation to choose an interpretation of domestic norms that is consistent with EC law, see Advocate General Saggio's Conclusions on joined cases from C-240 to C-244/98, Océano Grupo Editorial. Google Scholar

95 This obligation was somehow implicit in some previous decisions of the Supreme Court, see for instances the set of decisions in which the Supreme Court reads Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the light of Article 6, par. 3, let. (a) of the Convention, thereby acknowledging the right of people charged with a criminal offence to be informed of their charges in a language they understand (see, among others, decisions December 23, 1987; December 18, 1992; April 26, 1999 and October 14, 1999).Google Scholar

96 See Murray v. The Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. 2 Cranch 64 (1804).Google Scholar

97 See par. 6.1.1 of the 349 decision, which reads: “The interpretive role of the ECvHR has been acknowledged, with respect both to constitutional review standards and to challenged provisions (see decision No. 505 of 1995 and order No. 305 of 2001).” On the interpretation consistent with Constitution and the integration between legal orders, see A. Guazzarotti and A. Cossiri, La CEDU nell'ordinamento italiano: la Corte costituzionale fissa le regole, available at:, 2008.Google Scholar

98 As regards the importance of the single decisions of the Strasbourg Court, see for instance the 1226 Resolution of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, dated September 2000. In a passage of the text, it is stated that: “At national level: legislators should ensure that new legislation fully complies with the Convention; governments should take the necessary action to execute the Court's judgments in order to avoid any recurrence of violations; governments should remedy the applicant's individual situation and, where necessary, they should ensure that their legislation provides for the revision of a trial following a judgment of the Court; judges and administrators should work towards giving direct effect to the Court's judgments so that national court authorities can directly apply them; national authorities should make sure that the Court's case-law is adequately circulated in the language(s) of the country; until definitive reforms come into effect, domestic authorities and courts should adopt interim measures.” It is not the case that the parties of the trial before the referring judge stressed the importance of this resolution, and included it in the brief to the Constitutional Court.Google Scholar

99 See decision No. 348, para. 4.6.Google Scholar

100 This is the case, for instance, of the United Nations Charter.Google Scholar

101 This question is likely to surface with regard to the ILO Convention. Indeed the labour judge of the Tribunal of Brescia has lodged a constitutionality question (order of January 15, 2007) in which he challenges the constitutionality of some Italian statutory provisions, referring to Article 117, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, for violating the No. 97 of 1949 and the No. 143 of 1975 ILO Conventions. The question is now pending. We must recall that the ILO Conventions had already been invoked in connection with Article 10 and Article 117, para. 1, of the Constitution (in particular both the ILO Conventions No. 97/1949 and No. 158/1981) in front of the Italian Constitutional Court. However, The Court, in the decision No. 324/2006, considered the question inadmissible because the judge would have been able to resolve the question by interpreting the norm consistently with the Constitution.Google Scholar

102 See Bartolomei, L., La garanzia costituzionale dei trattati alla luce della legge 5 giugno 2003, n. 231 contenente disposizioni per l'adeguamento alla legge costituzionale 18 ottobre 2001, XX Rivista di diritto internazionale privato e processuale 853 (2003); P. Cavaleri, Articolo 1, in L'attuazione del nuovo titolo V, Commento alla legge “La Loggia” 6 (P. Cavaleri and E. Lamarque eds., 2003).Google Scholar

103 See the report of the Senate session dated March 8, 2001. On this point see also, Ghera, F., Una svolta storica nei rapporti del diritto interno con il diritto internazionale pattizio (ma non con quelli con il diritto comunitario), 133 Foro italiano 52 (2008).Google Scholar

104 See for instance the conception of privacy that the ECtHR uses in the Hannover v. Germany case, cited above, and how it differs from the same concept developed by the German Constitutional Court.Google Scholar

105 See decision No. 349, para. 6.1.2.Google Scholar

106 See Commission, Dorigo v. Italy, September 9, 1998. In particular, Mr. Dorigo was condemned on the basis of some witnesses’ declarations that were not confirmed during the judicial debate.Google Scholar

107 See Court of Appeal, Bologna, order No. 337 of March 15, 2006 (Dorigo case).Google Scholar

108 See on this point Guazzarotti, A., Il caso Dorigo: una piccola rivoluzione nei rapporti tra CEDU e ordinamento interno?, 25 Questione Giustizia 149 (2007); Conti, R., La Corte dei diritti dell'uomo e la Convenzione europea prevalgono sul giudicato – e sul diritto – nazionale, 24 Corriere Giuridico 689 (2007).Google Scholar

109 See Supreme Court, I Criminal Section, July 12 – October 3, 2006, No. 32678.Google Scholar

110 See ECtHR, Somogy v. Italy, No. 67972/01.Google Scholar

111 See Art 175 of the Italian criminal procedure Code, which in the meanwhile had been amended by the legislator.Google Scholar

112 Which regulates the mechanism of the incarceration's suspension (sospensione dell'esecuzione).Google Scholar

113 See Supreme Court, I Criminal Section, decision January 5, 2007, No. 2800.Google Scholar

114 On the mechanisms used by the Supreme Court in Somogy, Dorigo and Cat Berro case to reopen the process and the possible internal solutions, see A. Pugiotto, Vent'anni dopo l'insegnamento di Giovanni Battaglini, in All'incrocio 191 (R. Bin, G. Brunelli, A. Pugiotto, P. Veronesi eds., 2007); and Filippini, A., Il caso Dorigo, La CEDU e la Corte costituzionale: l'effettività della tutela dei diritti dopo le sentenze 348 e 349 del 2007, available at: Scholar

115 Dated April, 30, 2008.Google Scholar

116 See § 4.2 of the Dorigo decision.Google Scholar

117 On this, see Cisterna, A., La rimozione della detenzione iniqua è l'unico rimedio congruo e praticabile, 15 (Issue 20) Guida al Diritto 67 2008); Sciarabba, V., Il problema dell'intangibilità del giudicato tra Corte di Strasburgo, giudici comuni, Corte costituzionale e… legislatore?, available at: Scholar

118 This request represents an example of a typical species of decision that the Court can adopt, classified by the Italian scholarship with the expression of ‘warning decisions’ (sentenze monito). On this classification see E. Malfatti, S. Panizza, R. Romboli, Giustizia Costituzionale 141 (2003); R. Romboli, Il giudizio di costituzionalità delle leggi in via incidentale, in Aggiornamenti in tema di processo costituzionale (2002-2004) 127 (R. Romboli ed., 2005).Google Scholar

119 Namely Article 50 and 142 of the Royal Decree No. 267 of 1942, in the text preceding the 2006 reform.Google Scholar

120 In particular, see Vitiello v. Italia, No. 77962/01.Google Scholar

121 See § 5 of the decision.Google Scholar

122 According to some authors, in this decision the Constitutional Court seems to enlarge its mandate to monitor the consistency between national law and international obligations, asserting its right to intervene even to rule the conflict between international law and a previous domestic statutory norm (rectius: a domestic norm adopted prior to the domestic law implementing the international norm). In these cases, indeed, it would go without saying, under the lex posterior principle, that the domestic norm would be implicitly invalidated, without the need for a constitutionality test. Others maintain that the vague wording of Article 8 of the Convention could not trigger a strict lex posterior mechanism; hence this decision rather reflects the decisive importance lying in the Strasbourg case-law. For an extensive analysis of this issue, see Sciarabba, V., Il problema dei rapporti tra (leggi di esecuzione di) vincoli internazionali e leggi precedenti nel quadro della recente giurisprudenza costituzionale (a margine della sentenza della Corte costituzionale n. 39 del 2008), available at:; R. Mastroianni, La sentenza della Corte cost. n. 39 del 2008 in tema di rapporti tra leggi ordinarie e CEDU: anche le leggi cronologicamente precedenti vanno rimosse dalla Corte costituzionale?, available at: (the Author rightly notes that this position adopted by the Constitutional Court will probably lead to an increase of its workload).Google Scholar

123 For a careful description of the dynamics between national, constitutional and conventional law, see R. Cafari Panico and L. Tomasi, Il futuro della CEDU tra giurisprudenza costituzionale e diritto dell'Unione, 10 Dir. Pub. Comp. Eu. 186 (2008).Google Scholar

124 See decision No. 388 of 1999: “Besides the sameness [of human rights provisions] in the charters that regulate their protection, the different formulations implementing them can integrate between themselves, and complete each other in at the interpretation stage.”Google Scholar

125 See case 35/76, Simmenthal SpA v. Italian Minister for Finance [1976] ECR 1871; [1977] 2 CMLR 1.Google Scholar

126 See Granital v. Italian Minister for Finance, No. 170/84, June 8, 1984.Google Scholar

127 See Luciani, M., Alcuni interrogativi sul nuovo corso della giurisprudenza costituzionale in ordine ai rapporti fra diritto italiano e diritto internazionale, 25 Corriere Giuridico 204 (2008); Conti, R., supre note 71, at 213 (underlining the lack of a mechanism like Article 234 TCE in the ECHR system).Google Scholar

128 For a careful evaluation of the role of the ordinary judge according to the instructions of the decisions commented here, see A. Bultrini, Le sentenze 348 e 349/2007 della Corte costituzionale: l'inizio di una svolta?, XXV Dir. Pub. Comp. Eu. 171 (2008).Google Scholar

129 See the decision No. 10 of 1993, then disregarded by the subsequent case law, which tried to concede Italian norms implementing the ECvHR an atypical force, higher than the ordinary force of statutory law.Google Scholar

130 As sharply argued by M. Luciani, supra note 127, at 205.Google Scholar

131 Cartabia, M., La Costituzione italiana e l'universalità dei diritti umani, available at:—def.pdf, 8.Google Scholar

132 See Conti, R., supra note 71, at 211.Google Scholar

133 The choice made in the decision No. 39/2008 mentioned above could give rise to similar doubt. The Court therein seemed to prevent ordinary judges from taking the initiative and from taking possession of the “conventionality test” too early; in fact, the Constitutional Court gave the good example, showing how a careful understanding of the Strasbourg jurisprudence can facilitate the prevalence of the Convention on the domestic provisions.Google Scholar

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