Italian senators will today discuss the far-right Meloni government's plans to decriminalize abuse of power. The proposal to repeal the law has previously led to tensions with the European Union due to fears of abuse of power and the infiltration of the mafia into Italian politics.
Abuse of office, punishable by up to four years in prison, can be brought against public officials, including mayors and local administrators, who are suspected of intentionally abusing their public office for their own benefit or that of another person.
According to Justice Minister Carlo Nordio, the crime is “extremely vague” and “dissuades politicians and local officials from signing projects for fear of being investigated,” causing “economic damage to citizens.”
Fear of mafia infiltration
But judges raise concerns about the vital role this charge plays in protecting public administration. They warn that repealing the charge could encourage official misconduct and fear the mafia will force its way into public office.
Giuseppe Inzerillo, a Palermo lawyer and criminal law expert, echoes this concern: “A mayor who has to do public work can assign the work to a family member, a friend or—why not?—a friendly mafia member.”
The decline in the European fight against corruption
The proposal also raises dissatisfaction within the European Union. A European Commission spokesman said last month that the repeal “decriminalizes an important form of corruption and could have an impact on the effectiveness of the fight against corruption.” Abuse of power law currently exists in 25 of the 27 EU countries, and the EU wants to extend the law to all 27 countries.
In Italy, the issue is very complex and opinions are divided between academics, lawyers and legal experts. Critics on the left and right point out that the effectiveness of bringing cases to court in Italy is very low. According to the Department of Justice, 96% of abuse of office charges end without consequences.
Red tape is also the biggest argument for the Georgia Meloni government. Justice Minister Nordeau says that the crime of abuse of office “hinders investigations because it burdens prosecutors with useless files and consumes energy that should instead be spent on crimes that require more attention.”
The Italian government's proposal is scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday in the Senate, Italy's highest parliament. Senators can vote on the bill on Wednesday.
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