5.1.2 Division of jurisdiction
"Decentralisation vs. centrality" as an issue in the arts and culture has actually always been widely debated in Italy. While, theoretically, all political majorities declare themselves in favour of devolving further cultural competencies to the Regions, legislation adopted throughout the years, with the aim of further decentralising cultural responsibilities, has not yet been implemented by the alternate centre-left and centre-right governments. In fact, since the creation of the regions, the Italian national administration has always been reluctant to hand over to local government part of its direct managing responsibilities in the cultural field, as foreseen originally by Leg. Decree 616/1977, and later on by the so-called "Decentralisation Laws" (59/1997 and 112/1998). In fact, prominent experts of public law have been talking of "unfinished decentralisation", or "insisted centralisation" (M. Cammelli, 2003).
It should be added, however, that some inconsistencies do exist in the above mentioned legislation adopted in the 1990s, which introduced a much criticised split of core administrative functions between safeguard (tutela) and enhancement (valorizzazione), the latter referring to managerial functions fostering participation and access to museums and monuments, organisation of exhibitions and events, etc. Whereas, in Law 59/1997, only heritage protection (tutela) was actually listed among the cultural responsibilities to be retained by the state, and all those dealing with valorizzazione were to be devolved to regional and local authorities, Decree 112/1998 significantly extended the range of national powers, giving back to the state responsibility for the management of heritage and the performing arts, by introducing concurrent legislative competencies of the state and regions on the valorizzazione of cultural goods and activities. The controversial distinction protection / enhancement – although eventually integrated in the Constitution by Constitutional Law 3/2001, opening up Italy's institutional organisation to a more federal oriented structure – is presently under scrutiny.
For the time being, a comprehensive agreement among the different levels of government about the scope and content of the principle of "concurrent legislative competencies" on heritage and the arts still seems to be out of reach. As a result, controversies between the state and the regions have been frequently settled by the State Council or by the Constitutional Court. The Heritage Codex (Leg. Decree 41/2004), whose Article 4 allows the Ministry responsible for heritage to devolve additional functions to the regions by stipulating ad hoc agreements (see chapter 5.3.3), did not succeed in settling this problematic issue once and for all (Cammelli, 2003). It should be noted that fruitful cooperation between the Ministry and the regions has been achieved, in recent times, through the participation in joint planning programmes (see chapter 3.3).
On the other hand, the governance of culture has been badly affected by the centrality versus decentralisation conflict in the domain of the performing arts, where the heart of the matter actually lies in the dispute about how to allocate the Fund for the Performing Arts between the state and the regions. In fact, the allocation of financial resources to cinema in 2005 has been paralysed by these disputes (see chapter 5.3.6). In January 2007, a first step towards a more concerted action among the different levels of government –"given the delay in the adjustment of legislation to Constitutional Law 3/2001" – was actually accomplished with the joint signature among the Ministry and the local authorities of a Memorandum of Agreement on cultural and performing arts activities, aimed at the support of young authors and contemporary artistic activities, of audience development, and, last but not least, at the rationalisation of the allocation of state, regional and local financial resources, to avoid fragmentation. Yearly ministerial co-financing of such agreements (20 million EUR) was interrupted in 2009.