A view on Europe from a judge on Italy’s Constitutional Court

Almost a decade after after spending time as a fellow at NYU Law, Marta Cartabia—now vice president and judge of the Constitutional Court of Italy—returned to give the 13th Emile Noël Lecture on April 24. 

Marta Cartabia
Marta Cartabia

The strains that have emerged in the European Union during the last 10 years were a major theme in Cartabia’s talk, which took the form of a conversation with J.H.H. Weiler, Joseph Straus Professor of Law and co-director of the Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law & Justice, the sponsor of the event.

In Cartabia’s view, the gains by populist parties in Italy’s March 2018 elections had more to do with fear of immigration than with anti-EU sentiment. But she said that the politicians and intellectuals who successfully pushed for a united Europe had failed to consider the lack of a “deep-rooted popular European culture.” 

“Europe was nothing for the people,” Cartabia explained. “If you ask my kids, ‘Where are you from?’ they would never say ‘I am from Europe.’...They qualify themselves as Italian.”

“We have built the European integration forgetting the national side,” she added. “We are not able to convey the idea that…the European identity is built on the national state—not against the national state. This is probably a mistake…for which Europe can be blamed, not [to] consider that Europe is different from the United States. [It] is a pluralistic place, where nation states are to be preserved if you want to build up a strong European integration.”

Formerly a constitutional law professor at the University of Milan-Bicocca, Cartabia also described how her perspective has changed with her move to the bench in 2011. She said she now takes a more nuanced view of the Italian Constitutional Court’s practice of not allowing its judges to issue dissenting opinions. Dissents should be permitted “as a last resort,” Cartabia argued, but noted that she’s learned to appreciate the value of crafting a single opinion. 

“The fact of not having a dissenting opinion [obliges] each judge to do his or her best to improve the decision of the court,” she said.  “I have really to do my best to persuade the other judges and to try to find a balanced decision.”

Video of the 13th annual Emile Noël Lecture with speaker Marta Cartabia:


Posted May 31, 2018