What are the 12 fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution and what do they state

There Italian constitution opens with 12 articlescalled fundamental principleswhich state i values on which the is based Republic. They are not legislative measures, but general statements on which ordinary laws are inspired.

Among the fundamental principles affirmed by the Constitution are the republican form and sorting democratic of the State (art. 1), the centrality of Work for the progress of society (articles 1 and 4), the solidarity social (art. 2), theequality of citizens (art. 3). The fundamental principles also guarantee the local autonomies (art. 5), the protection of minorities (art. 6), the secularity of the state and freedom of worship (articles 7 and 8), the promotion of culture (art. 9); establish that international relations are based on internationalism and repudiation of war (articles 10 and 11).

To understand the fundamental principles, one must take into account the context in which they were written: Italy had just emerged from the twenty-year fascist dictatorship, which was characterized by the suppression of freedom and the abuses of political authorities. The Founding Fathers, who had participated in the resistance against fascism, wanted to found one Democratic state And protect freedom Italians.

It should also be remembered that our Constitution is rigid (cannot be changed by ordinary laws), long (deals with numerous fields of social life), voted (by the founding fathers elected by the citizens), democratic, programmatic (in the sense that it “programs” what our Republic should be like), compromissory (i.e. born from the compromise between different political forces).

The 12 fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution
  • 1Articles 1, 2 and 3: democracy, work, solidarity and equality
    • 1.1Article 1
    • 1.2Article 2
    • 1.3Article 3
  • 2Articles 4, 5 and 6: work, decentralization, minorities
  • 3Articles 7 and 8: religion
  • 4Article 9: culture
  • 5Articles 10 and 11: international relations
  • 6Article 12: flag

Articles 1, 2 and 3: democracy, work, solidarity and equality

Let's read and comment on the first three articles and fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution:

Article 1

Italy is a democratic Republic, founded on work. Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercises it in the forms and limits of the Constitution.

Article one is certainly the best known and most cited. It establishes that Italy has a republican institutional form, as decided by the citizens in the referendum of 2 June 1946, and recognizes the centrality of work for the progress of society. Furthermore, it establishes that Italy is a Democratic country and that citizens are holders of sovereignty. However, the popular sovereignty is not absolute and citizens' choices cannot violate the principles established by the Constitution.

First session of the Constituent Assembly
First session of the Constituent Assembly

Article 2

The Republic recognizes and guarantees the inviolable rights of man, both as an individual and in the social formations where his personality develops, and requires the fulfillment of the mandatory duties of political, economic and social solidarity.

Italian citizens are endowed with rights and duties, which the Constitution specifies in articles 13-54. The human being is not only understood as an individual in an abstract sense, but also as a subject who is part of social formations (for example, the employees of an office, the members of an association, the faithful of a religion, etc.). The article establishes a principle solidarist: everyone must do their part for the progress of society.

Article 3

All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinions, personal and social conditions.

It is the duty of the Republic to remove economic and social obstacles which, by effectively limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and society of the country.

Article three, according to some jurists, has more importance than even article one. The article establishes equality of everyone before the law, underlining that it it must not only be formal, but substantial. It is not enough to state that everyone is equal, but the State must guarantee equal opportunities in access to work, political life, etc., for the poor as well as the rich, regardless of everyone's conditions. Of course, it is questionable whether and to what extent the art. 3 find application.

Articles 4, 5 and 6: work, decentralization, minorities

Articles 4, 5 and 6 deal with Work, which is considered both a right and a duty of citizens; of the administrative decentralization, which is regulated by the subsequent Title V of the Constitution; of the protection of linguistic minoritieslike the German one in Alto Adige and the Slovenian one in Friuli.

Linguistic minorities in Italy (credits: Alessio Cimarelli)

Articles 7 and 8: religion

Articles 7 and 8 relate to religion. Article 7 declares that the State and the Catholic Church are independent of each other, thus sanctioning that Italy is a secular state. The article also recognizes the Lateran Pacts, signed in 1929, as the basis of relations between State and Church. The pacts were reformed in 1984, without this requiring any changes to the Constitution. Article 8 guarantees the freedom of worship: in our country, everyone can profess the religion they prefer.

The signing of the new concordat in 1984
The signing of the new concordat in 1984

Article 9: culture

Article 9 declares that the Republic protects and promotes culturethe scientific research and the heritage historical of the country. In 2022 a paragraph was added regarding the protects the environment. The update was necessary because, when the Constitution was written, the environmental damage was much less serious than today and environmentalism was not perceived as a need.

Articles 10 and 11: international relations

Articles 10 and 11 relate to international relations. Article 10 recognizes the right of asylum to foreigners: if a person risks suffering persecution in his country (for example because there is war or a dictatorship), he has the right to live in Italy.

Article 11 focuses instead on relations with other states. First of all, it states a pacifist principle: «Italy repudiates war as an instrument of offense against the freedom of other peoples and as a means of resolving international disputes». If we consider that the Constitution was written shortly after the Second World War, it is clear that the Founding Fathers considered peace an essential need.

The article also establishes that Italy intends to join the supranational bodiesagreeing to limit its sovereignty to adapt to the principles established jointly in the international field. It is no coincidence that over the years Italy has signed numerous UN conventions and is committed to respecting them (for example, it has agreed not to build nuclear bombs). Furthermore, it ceded a share of sovereignty over several matters to the European Union.

UN flag

Article 12: flag

The last article of the fundamental principles establishes that the national flag is the white, red and green tricolour, i.e. the old flag of the Kingdom of Italy without the Savoy coat of arms in the centre.