Interview by Victoria Vlasenko published on Deutsche Welle, http://www.dw.com on 22 September 2017. The original version in Ukrainian is available below and here. For a shorter version in Russian see below and here.
ENGLISH (This is a computer-assisted translation from Ukrainian to English.)
Francesco Palermo: There is no universal practice for minority languages in Europe
What language do minority children study in schools in Europe? How to establish a reasonable balance between affirmation of the state language and the rights of national minorities? International expert Francesco Palermo answers questions from DW.
The Ukrainian government has decided to send a resonant draft law on education to the Venice Commission, which was approved by the Verkhovna Rada on September 5. Some of its provisions, in particular, regarding the language of instruction in schools for children from families of national minorities, caused a diplomatic scandal. Because it involves studying the language of minorities only in elementary school. In particular, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Moldova, whose minorities are among the most numerous in Ukraine, expressed their resentment to Kyiv. Francesco Palermo, the former president of the advisory committee of the Council of Europe (CoE) Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, thinks that the state’s desire to promote the state language is fully justified, but warns the Ukrainian authorities not to cross the line, which starts a direct violation of the right to free communication.
Deutsche Welle: Professor Palermo, what is the general practice of using languages of national minorities in schools in Europe?
Francesco Palermo: The point is that there is not one common practice or rule that would fit all countries. You have to adapt different circumstances to the situation of each language of each national minority in each individual country. The fact that in Ukraine the position of the Russian language, which is not only the language of the national minority, but also of those who do not belong to this minority, remains unclear, gives the situation specific features compared with the situation of the languages of other national minorities in European countries. It is for this reason that in Europe there are established standards defined by the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which Ukraine must abide by, since it has ratified both of these documents.
So, does the Ukrainian Education Bill violate these two international instruments that you just mentioned? Continue reading
Il senatore Francesco Palermo sul voto di domenica: le scelte estreme hanno penalizzato una visione strategica.
Francesco Palermo: Guardi, non parlerei di una tendenza considerando che stavolta l’astensionismo è cresciuto solo dell’1,67%. Anzi, forse possiamo dire che siamo di fronte a un fenomeno di stabilizzazione. Del resto l’affluenza è stata piuttosto alta, almeno se comparata ad altre tipologie di consultazione.
I risultati l’hanno sorpresa?
Per dire la verità in nessun modo. Avevo previsto tutto, peccato che non abbia scommesso con qualcuno su come sarebbe andata a finire.
Davvero tutto così prevedibile?
No, in realtà qualcosa che non avevo minimamente pronosticato c’è stato. Il risultato di Casapound.
A cosa pensa sia dovuto l’exploit del movimento di estrema destra?
In un certo senso la risposta è già contenuta nella domanda. Proprio perché si tratta di un movimento “estremo”, l’elettorato gli ha tributato un notevole riconoscimento. Non si tratta peraltro di un fenomeno solo locale, anche se a livello locale è stata in particolare l’offerta politica di Casapound a intercettare quest’esigenza presente un po’ ovunque (si pensi a quanto sta accadendo negli Stati Uniti con Trump). A tal proposito trovo geniale lo slogan di Angelo Gennaccaro, che si è dichiarato “estremamente normale”: un ossimoro vincente in quanto colorato da un elemento di “sobria eccessività”, anche se – nel suo caso – chiaramente paradossale.
Focalizziamo lo sguardo sui protagonisti principali delle elezioni e parliamo dei due candidati (Renzo Caramaschi e Mario Tagnin) che si affronteranno al ballottaggio. Lei crede possibile che a Bolzano si ripeterà quanto accaduto a Laives?
Ritengo che il caso di Laives rimarrà isolato, o comunque non verrà replicato molto facilmente nel capoluogo. In fondo a Laives, nonostante il governo sia di centrodestra, è la Svp a comandare. A Bolzano la questione delle deleghe e delle competenze non potrebbe essere risolta allo stesso modo. Inoltre la composizione di un governo di centrosinistra costituirebbe anche la scelta più semplice. Senza contare il riflesso che un cambiamento di prospettiva avrebbe sullo scenario nazionale, dove Matteo Renzi continua – e sicuramente continuerà ancora a lungo – a dominare. Sommando tutti questi fattori, la conferma di un’alleanza tra il Pd e la Svp appare la soluzione più probabile.
(Interview mit Vera Mair am Tinkhof, erschienen auf http://www.barfuss.it/leute/der-unfreiwillige-politiker am 8. Februar 2016)
Francesco Palermo hat ein Amt und trotzdem eine Meinung: Der Senator über Politik, was am Autonomiestatut überarbeitet gehört und sein zwiegespaltenes Verhältnis zu Social Media.
Francesco Palermo erscheint pünktlich und gut gelaunt zum Interview in der EURAC-Bar in Bozen. Der Senator begrüßt den Kellner, bestellt einen Orangensaft und bringt sich in Position. Der anfängliche Verdacht, dass er seine letzthin eher negativen Erfahrungen mit einigenSüdtiroler Medien auch auf einen selbst projizieren könnte, lässt sich zumindest zu Beginn des Gesprächs durch seine entspannte Haltung nicht bekräftigen.
Palermo gilt als intellektuell – ein Attribut, das in der Politik nicht nur positiv behaftet, für seine anderen Tätigkeiten allerdings unabdingbar ist: Leiter des Instituts für Föderalismus- und Regionalismusforschung der EURAC, Lehrstuhl an der Universität in Verona in vergleichendem Verfassungsrecht, ehemaliger Berater für den Europarat und die OSZE. Einfache Parolen sind seine Sache deshalb nicht. Dementsprechend wählt er auch im Gespräch seine Worte mit Bedacht, holt oft lange sprachlichen und argumentativen Anlauf, bis er die Hürde der Antwort endgültig nimmt.
Herr Senator Palermo, laut Ihrem Lebenslauf sprechen Sie neben Deutsch, Italienisch und Englisch noch Spanisch, etwas Französisch und besitzen Grundkenntnisse in Serbokroatisch und Niederländisch. Sind Sprachen essentiell, um eine Kultur zu verstehen?
Sprache ist dazu sicherlich nicht das einzige Mittel, aber eine wichtige Voraussetzung. Mir hätte es auch gut gefallen, Sprachwissenschaftler zu werden. Als ich hier an der EURAC begonnen habe, habe ich auch im Bereich der Rechtsterminologie geforscht. Insgesamt interessiert mich das schon. Und gerade auch in der Rechtsvergleichung sind Sprachen besonders wichtig.
Auch in Ihrem Blog betonen Sie die Wichtigkeit von Sprache. Sie schrieben Artikel zu der von Ihnen so genannten „responsabilità delle parole“ und über das missverständliche Vokabular, das in der Politik gern verwendet wird.
Das muss man aber differenzieren, denn dabei handelt es sich um zwei verschiedenen Ebenen: Einerseits haben wir als Politiker Verantwortung für die von uns verwendeten Worte. Diese sind oft so schlecht, weil sie Ergebnis eines Kompromisses sind. Ein interessantes Beispiel dazu wird uns nun bald mit dem Gesetz zur Anerkennung der gleichgeschlechtlichen Paare begegnen. Da tauchen auch sicher wieder ein paar Begriffe auf, die der Rechtsordnung bislang total fremd sind, wie etwa „affido rafforzato“ – was soll das heißen? Das ist nicht klar. Der Grund dafür liegt im politischen Prozess, weil die Politik – und das ist auch gut so – immer den Kompromiss sucht und auch suchen soll. Das ist das eine.
Dann gibt es die zweite Ebene, und die ist noch schlimmer, glaube ich. Wenn wir über die Verantwortung für die verwendeten Worte sprechen, liegen wir im Bereich der politischen Kommunikation. Und da sind wir momentan auf einem miserablen Niveau. Denken Sie einfach mal an die Social Media: Die Sprache und Aggressivität, die da oft dahintersteckt, ist ja absolut unerträglich. Daher versuche ich in meinem öffentlichen Leben zum Beispiel nie über Personen zu reden, denn es geht nicht um eine persönliche Konfrontation, sondern um Themen. Und die Wortwahl muss dabei immer vorsichtig sein – auch wenn ich manchmal etwas aggressiver werden oder eine stärkere Wortwahl verwenden möchte, damit die Botschaft klarer wird. Aber ich bremse das immer, weil ich finde, eine gewisse Grenze der Würde darf in der Sprachwahl nicht überschritten werden.
„Damals, vor drei Jahren, ist eben ein Fenster aufgegangen. Jetzt allerdings bedauere ich das, muss ich sagen. Denn das Leben ist ja wirklich miserabel. Wenn ich zurückkönnte, drei Jahre zurück, würde ich nicht mehr kandidieren.”
Radio Radicale: Intervista a margine dell’audizione di Marco Pannella alla Commissione straordinaria per la tutela e la promozione dei diritti umani
TGCI: Thank you for doing this interview. Let’s begin with you. How did you get interested and engaged in issues of federalism and governance?
Francesco Palermo: I was born in Bolzano, in South Tyrol, which is an autonomous province in northern Italy and is itself a fascinating case of federal governance. Perhaps because of where I was born I became interested in federalism, and the
question of how different levels of government can interact in a cooperative and not a conflictive way. I pursued this interest by getting a PhD in University of Innsbruck, where my doctoral thesis focused on regionalism and the foreign relations of subnational entities. I then started as a researcher at EURAC, and over time came into my present position as Director of EURAC’s Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism. I also am a member of the Italian Parliament, having been elected as an independent Senator from South Tyrol.
TGCI: Can you tell a little more about EURAC?
Francesco Palermo: The European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC) lies in the heart of the Dolomite mountains in Northern Italy. Created in 1992 as an independent research center, EURAC is home to researchers from all over the world who work together on a wide range of interdisciplinary projects. Experts in law and natural sciences, linguists and geneticists collaborate with public and private agencies towards the resolution of the central issues of our day. Together they contribute to create a future-oriented Europe.
TGCI: How would you define federalism?
Francesco Palermo: The term “federalism” is used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty and power are constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces). Federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments, creating what is often called a federation As the late Daniel Elazar said: “Federalism is a mix of self-rule and shared rule.”
TGCI: How many countries in the world today operate on a federalist model?
Francesco Palermo: It depends on how you define federalism. There are at least 25 federal countries in the world today representing 40 percent of the world’s population. But many more countries show federal features, despite not defining themselves as “federal”, such as Spain, Italy, the UK and many others.
TGCI: So federal governance seems quite applicable in today’s world.
Francesco Palermo: Yes, growing complexity in governance marks today’s world. There are many different constituencies clamoring to participate in decision-making processes. Often the political response to such complexity is to call for the simplification of decision-making. However, in practice what’s needed are tools that can help countries say “yes” to such complexity, and bring actors who otherwise would have been excluded into the governance decision-making process.
TGCI: Including citizens of course.
Francesco Palermo: Absolutely including citizens. In the final analysis those in positions of political power have the final word, they need to consult with citizen groups and other societal actors in order for their decisions to be perceived as legitimate.
TGCI: You make the point that there is no “one size fits all” model of federalism.
Francesco Palermo: Yes for example look at the difference in the federal governance systems that exist in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, Germany, and South Africa. All of these countries follow the principles of federal governance, though they apply them in different ways. The origins of many federal states lies in unity governments, which made political decisions to decentralize. They did this so that power could be shared with subnational units representing different constituencies. Such was the case in countries such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, India and lately South Sudan. On the other hand you have countries like Germany, Switzerland or the US, which joined together previously independent sovereign states to form a federal system.
TGCI: Can you describe some of the tools that federal countries use to ensure power sharing between the state and its sub-national units of government?
Francesco Palermo: The most common used tool is the device of having dual legislative chambers, one based on population and one based on giving representation to a sub-national unit, such as the US Senate. Another tool are intergovernmental relations among executives of different tiers of government in several matters, from financial resources to the environment. There also are tools focused on participatory procedures that enable individual states or citizens to engage in the
drafting of legislation.
TGCI: Federalism is widely viewed as an effective governance system for the protection of minority rights. Can you speak to this point?
Francesco Palermo: There is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved when constructing a federal state composed of various minorities. If you have a distinct ethnic group, the more self-government they can achieve the less interest they have in establishing their own state. For example, had Scotland been given broader autonomy from the United Kingdom an independence referendum would most likely not have been needed. Catalonia in Spain is another example of an opportunity foregone. Had Spain not refused to adopt more of a true federal system, in response to requests from Catalonia to do so, the prospect of Catalonia seceding from Spain would not have occurred.
TGCI: Are there governance debates in other parts of the world that can draw on successful lessons learned about how federalism works from elsewhere?
Francesco Palermo: In many countries you find regions or municipalities asking for greater autonomy; for example in Flanders in Belgium or parts of the former Soviet Union or South Tyrol here in Italy. If the central state listens to these requests and is able to be flexible and grant these regions a certain degree of autonomy, then federalism can help keep these countries together. If the central state is stubborn and unresponsive to these requests, in all likelihood the regions will end up
seceding. Secession reflects a failure in the federal system. It proves that something went wrong.
TGCI: Can you give an example of a state that failed to respond to the needs of its regions for more autonomy?
Francesco Palermo: Ukraine is a good example. Over the past two decades successive governments in Kiev failed to recognize Crimea’s interest in having genuine autonomy. Ukraine is a very diverse country but it has been ruled as a centralized state. Had the central government in Kiev been able to grant more political autonomy to the regional government in Crimea, it probably would have averted the recent Russian takeover of that region. Russia took advantage of Ukraine’s political neglect of the Crimea. The same dynamic is at play in the Eastern part of Ukraine where military intervention now makes it more difficult for a solution that grants more autonomy to Ukraine’s eastern provinces and forestalls the prospect of the regions seceding.
TGCI: What are the potential drawbacks of a federalist system?
Francesco Palermo: Federalist systems respond to changes in the political environment. When you have a conflictive political system, as you have at the moment in the US, the system exerts its control and blocks decisions that are too unilateral.
TGCI: What about the relationship between federalism and democracy?
Francesco Palermo: Federalism and democracy need to go together. An essential part of federalism is for a country’s citizens to be able to have control over the exercise of political power, and ensure that its leaders are accountable to the people they serve.
TGCI: Is it possible to have federalism without democracy?
Francesco Palermo: On paper you can have a constitutional design that has all the elements of federalism except democracy; see for example the former USSR, some countries in Latin America, or Ethiopia, which has a federal system but only one political party so there are no opportunities for reciprocal political control. In practice, however, federalism cannot operate without democracy.
TGCI: Does federalism have a role to play in global governance?
Francesco Palermo: The need for more effective global governance systems is widely recognized. The question is how feasible is it to have stronger global governance? Is the world too geographically and culturally diverse? Are the global differences between rich countries and poor countries too great? Can federalism work without a minimum level of homogeneity among its constituent parts? Even in Europe you have this problem. Look at the differences between Finland and Greece. Do they have something in common other than the Euro? I am morally convinced that we need to work towards better global governance but we have to move slowly given the differences that exist between countries.
TGCI: What are your views on global citizenship? Do you consider yourself a global citizen?
Francesco Palermo: If being a global citizen means being an aware person who fits his or her actions into different governance contexts, than I can identify with this term. In terms of citizenship I always try to reflect the roots that I come from. But this changes depending on the context in which I’m operating. If I am in Italy I see myself as a South Tyrolean; if in Europe I am an Italian; on a larger stage perhaps a European or a global citizen. I am not sure.
TGCI: Thank you very much.