Parliamentary immunity: what it is and what changes between Italy and Europe

The arrest of Eva Kalili makes us reflect on the situation of the European institutions, but above all in Italy it also raises other questions, first of all: “how is it possible that the former vice president ended up in handcuffs without previous parliamentary passages?” And above all with an investigation still open?

The answer is to be found in the functioning of parliamentary immunity in Italy and in Europe and understand how it declines differently based on the situation.

What is meant by “parliamentary immunity”

In Italy we have always heard a lot of talk about parliamentary immunity. Between investigations, more or less questionable elections, in our country, the concept of immunity is a sore point that almost all legislations have found themselves facing for one reason or another.

By parliamentary immunity we mean that series of particular prerogatives granted to members of legislative assemblies and would be designed primarily to guarantee the functioning of the assembly itself, but also its independence.

Here are the main features ofparliamentary immunity in Italy:

  • the elected are not liable for the opinions expressed and for the votes given;

  • they cannot be searched or arrested without the prior approval of the House to which they belong;

  • it is not possible to carry out interceptions or seizure of correspondence without prior authorization.

Precisely because of the conformation of this measure, in Italy it would have been almost impossible to witness images such as those that are now arriving daily from Europe, which seems determined to clean up the shadows and suspicions that have fallen on the institutions in recent weeks.

The differences between Italy and Europe

However, there are clear differences between how the same measure is applied in the various states and this is why we are seeing the arrests these days.

In Europe it refers toArticle 9 of the 2014 Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the Unionaccording to which the members of the European Parliament refer to the immunities recognized by their own state.

In the case of Kalili, however, the handcuffs were taken in Brussels and not in Greece (here immunity only applies for prison sentences of less than 5 years).

How is this possible then?

EU-wide immunity protects elected officials from prosecution unless there has been prior authorization, but is much less protective of individuals in regards to the scope of investigations.

It would have been precisely the ongoing investigations that indicated the flagrante delicto of the former vice president, thus blowing up the immunity shield.

The main difference with Italy would therefore be precisely this; in fact, in our country, the elected officials are much more protected in terms of investigations, in fact, even the use of tools related to investigations, such as wiretapping for example, must be previously approved.

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Parliamentary immunity: what it is and what changes between Italy and Europe