The Italian government has approved a key reform of the country’s much-criticized judicial system, preventing magistrates from moving directly from judicial careers to politics and vice versa.
Reforms to the country’s justice system are among several requirements imposed by the European Union on Italy to receive billions of euros in pandemic recovery funds.
Among those who in recent decades have pushed for reform of the rules applicable to magistrates is Silvio Berlusconi, the centre-right former prime minister. He argued that left-leaning prosecutors targeted him and his media empire to harm him politically.
During a council of ministers on Friday, the government decided on various measures to limit the back and forth of magistrates between their judicial and political functions, both at national and local level.
Parliament must now take the reforms back to convert them into the law of the land.
Under these measures, magistrates standing for election cannot do so in regions where they have been judges or prosecutors in the previous three years.
If elected after the end of their political mandate, they will not be able to exercise any judicial function, the Ministry of Justice assigning them to administrative roles.
For magistrates who run for political office but are not elected, three years must elapse before they can exercise judicial office again.
The reform aims to end the practice of “revolving door magistrates who hold political office”, Justice Minister Marta Cartabia told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
A former head of Italy’s Constitutional Court itself, Cartabia now sits in Cabinet in a non-political role as part of the pandemic unity government formed last year by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Draghi, ex-head of the European Central Bank, is also considered a technocrat.
“We owe it to citizens who have the right to regain full confidence in our justice system,” Cartabia said.
Judicial careers have not infrequently served as springboards into politics.
One such example is Antonio Di Pietro, one of the Clean Hands prosecutors based in Milan, whose bribery investigations in the 1990s swept through an entire political class.
Soon after, Di Pietro entered politics, became a minister and formed his own centre-left political movement.
Italy’s often slow judicial system is seen as a disincentive for investors and entrepreneurs to do business in Italy.
“In general, predictable and certain justice in a timely manner favors foreign investment,” Draghi said. But a more comprehensive overhaul of Italy’s judicial system “is still a long way off”, he said.