“Historic”: Venice now classified as an island in the Constitution

Aerial view of Venice and the Lagoon. Photo by Giovanni Leone
Changes have been made to Article 119, which allows certain prerogatives only to Sicily and Sardinia. At stake are Italian and European funds for redevelopment projects.

By Sofia Teresa Bisi

30 July 2022

For over a millennium Venice has been an island, or rather a group of small islands. For the Constitution, however, it has only now been legally classified as an island, as have the other islands in the lagoon, as well as in Veneto, such as for example at Polesine, as well as other Italian islands such as Elba or Ischia, to cite only a few. Sicily and Sardinia are no longer the only “constitutionally” defined islands. In essence, any territory surrounded by sea, lagoon or river will obtain a new constitutional protection.

Making the announcement was Angelo Zanellato, provincial secretary of the PD in Polesine, who pushed for the modification of the report connected to the updating of Article 119 of the Constitution. Thursday saw the fourth and final vote on the process provided for constitutional laws. Lacking the necessary two-thirds of the vote, the law will have to wait for 90 days to pass to be promulgated. During this time period, if anyone objects to the measure, they could call for its cancellation with a national referendum. In order for that to happen the request must come from one-fifth of the members of a Chamber, or fifty thousand voters, or five regional councils. But as of today, the modification has been adopted.


“This is a historic change – said Zanellato – for many inhabited areas, but in particular for those in lagoon or delta environments: this change will recognize for all these places, not only those in the South and the main islands of Sardinia and Sicily, the serious and permanent disadvantages of insularity. In three months the constitutional change can become reality, bringing hundreds of thousands of euros from the State and the EU to our territories for redevelopment projects and for measures that can do justice to some of the objective difficulties. The most visible examples are related to infrastructure, healthcare and education: there are too many structural deficiencies, such as the closure of the schools caused by the low number of registrations and the lack of medical centers in peripheral areas”.

This change, which recognizes the same condition for all maritime, river, lagoon islands and insular cities, came a few months after a European measure was adopted aimed at reducing hardships for island residents. Changes for Venice, beyond its Special Law could also result, such as the introduction of less polluting and less expensive means of public transportation for Pellestrina, Cavallino, Murano, Burano, Chioggia and many others. The Polesine, from which the proposal came, would see a change of fate for Porto Tolle with its archipelago of three islands (Donzella, Camerini and Ca’Venier), as for Porto Vior and for the island of Ariano with Corbola and Taglio di Po.


To present this result, regional PD secretary Andrea Martella also spoke online. “It is important that what began as a popular initiative has been followed by a change to the constitution, albeit in the final phase of the legislature: it will help to make the condition of insularity, which in many aspects is precious and privileged prerogative, to be less of a disadvantage. We can enhance and protect the cultural, natural, historical and social potential of many areas which due to their geography have not been visible for far too long”.

The original text of Article 119 included, at the third subparagraph, a reference to the geographically, economically and socially “disadvantaged realities” that are recipients of special funding aimed at their enhancement; “to provide in determined purposes for enhancing the South and the Islands, the State assigns by law special contributions to single Regions”. In 2001 the Legislature eliminated any reference to insularity, referring only to “territories with reduced fiscal capacity”, overlooking geographical conditions. The text of the most recent change provides that the Republic recognizes the specificity of the islands and promotes measures necessary to address the disadvantages that derive from insularity.


“The legislative process – relates Zanellato – started with a report done for me by Ivo Rossi, the former Mayor of Padua, who is very attentive to environmental issues. The text, already discussed once in Parliament, seemed adequate to me, but I went to the regional and national secretaries, senators and parliamentarians to ask if we could add a clarification that would identify as insular all of the national territories that are surrounded by water, not only the two largest islands. After the support I received from Senator Andrea Ferrazzi and from Hon. Diego Zardini, on 28 July, Hon. Romina Mura brought the request to the Camera, approved it, ratifying the principles on which to consider insularity in Italy”.

“When we talk about islands – Mura said while speaking in the session – we speak of Sardinia and of Sicily, which are the most important maritime islands, but there are many other maritime islands, just as there are river islands, lake island, and insular cities. Thus we are talking about 8 million Italians who live in different parts of the country, both in regions with an ordinary statute and those with a special statute”.

Source: Il Gazzettino

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