Constitutional Asymmetries in Italian Regionalism

Italy is a profoundly asymmetrical state, following a longstanding tradition of fragmentation that almost 160 years of unification have only partially mitigated. This presentation focuses primarily on constitutionally entrenched asymmetries, in particular the differences between ordinary and special/autonomous regions and the so-called differential regionalism, allowing ordinary regions to negotiate with the central government additional forms and conditions of autonomy in specific subject matters. Other elements of de jure asymmetry relate to the constitutional recognition of an autonomous status to the sole provinces of Trento and Bolzano and to the presence – in certain regions only – of metropolitan cities as autonomous levels of local government. As a conclusion, the presentation speculates on potential (positive and negative) developments of the increasing asymmetrical trajectory of the Italian constitutional framework in a struggle to accommodate unity and diversity.

Asymmetry as a way to move forward with multi-tiered integration? Constitutional asymmetries in the European Union

The European Union is a unique multi-tiered organisation aimed at integrating the economic and political systems of its diverse Member States. Originally set up around symmetrical governance principles, the extension of competences and enlargement of territories comprising the EU, differences in vision about how far the EU should go, have increased. To overcome those differences without discontinuing the European integration process, the EU framework has acknowledged different ways for differentiated or asymmetrical integration, without completely overhauling the EU’s overall symmetrical features. This paper categorizes the different types of asymmetries prevailing in the current EU constitutional framework and sets out to explain their co-existence and role in the current stages of the EU integration project. This allows us to map the opportunities and limits the current EU constitutional framework poses.


The panelist will discuss the hypotheses on constitutional asymmetry and multinationalism introduced by the chair: (1) Constitutional asymmetry emerges from political asymmetry. (2) Multinationalism, in the form of variations in identity, is not the exclusive but a determining factor for constitutional asymmetry. (3) The correlation is stronger when the divide based on identity is reinforced with congruent political asymmetries of another nature. (4) Privileged status is attributed to identity markers rather than territory-based entities. (5) Factors that facilitate symmetrisation or further asymmetrisation processes are, amongst others, the presence of competing national groups, the presence of non-competing non-distinct groups, the dynamics of strongly divided fragmenting states, internal dynamics created by asymmetries.

Constitutional asymmetry vs. legitimacy and stability

Constitutional asymmetry is closely linked to the multinational multi-tiered systems. One of the concerns linked to this is that constitutional asymmetry affects legitimacy and stabilty in these systems. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to conceptualize legitimacy and stability under this specific frame of reference and to answer whether constitutional asymmetry indeed aftects two concepts. In the first place, this paper builds the dynamic concepts of legitimacy and stability to better fit the multinational multi-tiered systems with asymmetrical features. In the second place, the paper uses the indicators of constitutional asymmetry against the main features of legitimacy and stability in these systems. Along the way the paper compares potential drawbacks in legitimacy and stability between asymmetrical multinational multi-tiered systems and multi-tiered systems that do not display asymmetrical features.