Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Virtual Bookshelf: A Review of “The Italian Parliament in the European Union” by Nicola Lupo and Giovanni Piccirilli

Richard Albert, The University of Texas at Austin

In the most recent installment in the new Hart Series on Parliamentary Democracy in Europe, Nicola Lupo (LUISS Rome) and Giovanni Piccirilli (LUISS Rome) bring us an edited volume on The Italian Parliament in the European Union (Oxford: Hart 2017). Lupo and Piccirilli have assembled roughly 20 scholars to explore the interrelationship(s) between the Italian Parliament and the European Union.

The book is divided into four major parts:

  1. “Italy Coping with the Process of European Integration,” which contains four chapters;
  2. “The Formation of the National Position in the EU,” which likewise contains four chapters, including a fascinating chapter on the tensions between unitarism and regionalism by Cristina Fasone (LUISS Rome) entitled “The Coordination with the Regional Councils,” in my view an illuminating comparative complement to the new line of American literature on cooperative and uncooperative federalism;
  3. “The Italian Parliament in the ‘Euro-national’ Parliamentary System,” which contains six chapters, including one on treaty-making and -changing by Barbara Guastaferro (Naples “Federico II”) entitled “Procedures vis-à-vis the “Masters of the Treaties’: The Parliamentary Role in the Revision of Treaties”;
  4. “The Italian Future in a European Perspective,” consisting of three chapters, including a contribution by Maria Romaniello (LUISS Rome) on “The Italian Symmetrical Bicameral System in EU Affairs.”

The volume is bookended by a Foreword by Andrea Manzella (LUISS Rome) and an Afterword by Peter Lindseth (UCONN).

In light of my own interests in constitutional change and amendment, I was particularly drawn to the concluding chapter on “‘Silent’ Constitutional Transformations: The Italian Way of Adapting to the European Union,” co-authored by Lupo and Piccirilli. The premise of the chapter is a paradox: the Italian Constitution has changed dramatically over the years, though often without a corresponding alteration to its text. This is what Lupo and Piccirilli describe as a “silent constitutional transformation.” They perceive this phenomenon with regard both to Italy’s membership in the European Union and also to the country’s own constitutional arrangements. The Italian Constitution, they suggest, is no longer what it once was but one could not identify all of the intervening changes from a plain reading of the country’s formal constitution.

Begin with Article 11 of the Constitution. Since 1947, it states that “Italy agrees, on conditions of equality with other States, to the limitations of sovereignty that may be necessary to a world order ensuring peace and justice among the Nations” and “promotes and encourages international organisations furthering such ends.” [p 323] The authors explain that this Article has been an important vehicle for the country’s integration into the European Union. Although there have been some formal constitutional amendments involving the European Union–including to Articles 81, 97, 117 and 122 [pp 323-24]–the authors stress that “the Italian participation in the European Union has been relying essentially on just legislative means … .” [p 325]

Thanks to the constitutional reference to sovereignty and its limitations, Italy has been capable to ensure the ratification of all the European Treaties by means of ordinary legislation and the legal effectiveness of EU law to the domestic legal order, allowing also the Italian Constitutional Court to progressively adapt its case law to the early affirmation of the primacy and direct effect by the European Court of Justice as early as the 1960s. [p 323]

The same kind of “silent constitutional transformation” is evident in the changing role of the Parliament in Italy’s domestic constitutional order. A particularly powerful example developed by the authors concerns the evolution of Italian parliamentary rules of procedure and their consequences for constitutional law.

There is much more to be said about this important chapter and indeed about the entire volume. I invite our readers to have a look at the book for themselves. I am confident it will be well worth the time.

Suggested Citation: Richard Albert, Book Review, “The Italian Parliament in the European Union” by Nicola Lupo and Giovanni Piccirilli, Feb. 7, 2018, at:


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