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An appeal to end job discrimination in Italy

Italy is yet again defying EU law by failing to implement European Court of Justice rulings. Since the creation of a discriminatory law in 1980 reserved for foreign-language lecturers at Italian universities, Italy, a founder member of the European Union, has been engaging in systematic job discrimination. Domenico Pacitti and JUST Response urgently invite Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of Italy, and Premier Silvio Berlusconi to desist from discriminating immediately and to set a positive example for Italians by obeying the law.

An open letter to the following signatories of decree law 4696:-

Mr. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of Italy

Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, Premier of Italy

Ms. Letizia Moratti, Minister for higher education

Mr. Rocco Buttiglione, Minister for Community policy

Mr. Franco Frattini, Minister for foreign affairs

Mr. Giulio Tremonti, Minister for finance

Mr. Luigi Mazzella, Minister for public affairs

- and to the good people of Italy

RE: We respectfully request  - 1) that you immediately apply both the spirit and the letter of European law in order to end longrunning job discrimination against over 1,500 foreign-language lettori who teach at Italy's 77 universities; and 2) that Italian politicians desist from trying to teach Italians and others how to defy the law with impunity.

JUST Response is an international human rights journal concerned with the worldwide monitoring and promotion of the basic principles of truth, justice, freedom and democracy. We wish to express our full support for some 1,500 foreign-language lettori who have been suffering job discrimination at your 77 universities for up to 24 years. This long-term policy of discrimination continues to take its toll on lettori not only economically and professionally but also physically and psychologically.


In June 2001, the European Court of Justice found Italy guilty of discriminating against the lettori for a record third time. On January 14 2004, in a declared attempt to end the discrimination and under threat of heavy fines, you signed a decree law. It not only conspicuously fails in its declared purpose but actually renders the discrimination even worse. This view is fully endorsed by the European Commission, which has announced that it will now request the Court of Justice to impose daily fines on Italy of 309,750 euros.


Your present conduct and your previous similar attempts to avoid applying Court of Justice lettori discrimination rulings against you in 1988 and 1993 together strongly suggest a fully conscious and systematic recalcitrance towards the law. We firmly condemn this on the following grounds:

         As politicians, you are setting a negative example for your citizens to follow;

         As founder members of the European Union, your conduct not only betrays the Treaty of Rome but is widely considered to be outrageous;

         As an EU member state, you now risk contaminating honest states in teaching them how to break the law with impunity.

We remind you that in the eyes of much of the international academic community, Italian universities are not in fact real universities at all and are called so only by courtesy. For it has long been common knowledge that it is quite literally impossible to obtain a tenured teaching post at any of Italy's 77 universities solely on the basis of merit and without what is notoriously referred to as a raccomandazione.


Ironically, the only teachers at Italian universities with unquestioned competence in their subject are the lettori, since  what they are teaching is their own native language. Nor do they receive their jobs by raccomandazione, since such untenured jobs are deemed too insignificant to require one. Yet you and your universities have treated and continue to treat with unpardonable contempt these people who have been invited to your country from every corner of the world in order to teach their language and culture to your students, often with a level of commitment that is sadly lacking in your "recommended" tenured teaching staff.

Note:  This appeal was published by JUST Response on March 13 2004.