Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Adapting Administrative Structures to (Small) Minority Areas: Trentino as a Laboratory Rather Than a Model

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Adapting Administrative Structures to (Small) Minority Areas: Trentino as a Laboratory Rather Than a Model

Article excerpt

This article analyses the potential consequences for the protection and promotion of linguistic minorities of different organizational options adopted in public administration bodies, focusing on the legislation relating to the Ladin, Mòcheno and Cimbrian linguistic groups in the Autonomous Province of Trento (also referred to as "Trentino"). In particular, it addresses the question of which kind of modifications to the administrative structures should or needs to be adopted to meet the needs of linguistic minorities.

Indeed, different models exist to organize the public administration in order to enhance the protection and promotion of minority rights. A legislator can implement two levels of minority-friendly measures within a local administration, by introducing new public bodies and by facilitating better integration of linguistic groups within the existing administration. The aim of the following sections is to analyse the application of these two strategies within the Trentino legal system, highlighting in particular the synergy created by using both levels, and the positive impact on the protection and promotion of the rights of linguistic minorities.

After a brief theoretical introduction devoted to analysing the condition of "small numbers" and its consequences-as an obstacle or an opportunity-on the functioning of public administration bodies (Section 1), the article focuses on the fundamental political decision to develop legislation to protect and promote linguistic groups. It will outline the "minority-friendly" approach of the Autonomous Province of Trento and the territorial delineation of administrative structures inside geographical areas where members of the Ladin, Mòcheno and Cimbrian linguistic communities reside (Section 2).

The article then examines the legal framework, identifying and critically assessing key features and problems of the various institutional and governance structures, ranging from the adaptation of ordinary administrative structures to the creation of specific minority bodies (and to the development of mechanisms that facilitate greater participation of the minority group within the public administration). It divides the examination of Trentino legislation into an analysis of the adaptations of ordinary administrative structures and institutions (Section 3) and the creation of new public bodies specialized in minority protection, such as the Conference on Minorities, the Authority for Linguistic Minorities, cultural institutes and toponymy commissions (Section 4). The two subsequent sections critically describe, first, coordination as a general category of administrative action, highlighting its centrality-even if implemented by a majority initiative-to improved minority self-governance (Section 5), and, second, the importance of ensuring privileged access to public employment for members of minorities (Section 6). The article concludes that provincial legislation in Trentino can be viewed as an "institutional laboratory" involving a wide range of institutional settings; the Trentino approach to the organization of public administration is indeed characterized by empowerment of the community through facilitated self-governance, using a broad variety of tools (Section 7). Nevertheless, it is very difficult to evaluate which tools are dominant, and consequently to predict which elements of the Trentino legal experience can be usefully applied to different political and social contexts (Section 8).

1. Small numbers in the public administration: an obstacle and an opportunity

The form of organization of public administration is closely linked to the issue of minority protection. The question arises as to what kind of modification to the administrative structures should or needs to be adopted to meet the needs of historical linguistic minorities. Indeed, specific organizational structures can be conducive to better minority protection. In particular, the legislator can, with due consideration for the need of efficiency at management level, implement two levels of minority-friendly measures, by introducing new public bodies and by facilitating greater integration of linguistic groups into the existing administration. …

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