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The latest in the soap opera on Italy’s new museum directors: court suspends ruling that ousted five of them

by Lorenzo Zanini

The latest episode in the soap opera on Italy’s new museum directors went on air Thursday afternoon, June 15. Italy’s top administrative court, “Consiglio di Stato”, suspended a ruling that ousted five museum directors. The ruling affected Martina Bagnoli at the Galleria Estense in Modena; Paolo Giulierini, Eva Degl’Innocenti and Carmelo Malacrino at the National Archaeological Museums of Naples, Taranto and Reggio Calabria respectively; and Austrian-born Peter Assmann at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua.

Council of State’s ruling re-instated the managers hired in 2015 as part of a sweeping reform, but removed a few days ago by a lower court: on May 25 two sentences by TAR Lazio, the administrative court for the Lazio region which includes Rome, ruled that the evaluation process in the international recruitment conducted by Italian Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Ministry (MIBACT) for the post of Director at five museums was confused and opaque. TAR Lazio also questioned the hiring of foreigners to some of the positions to be filled.

The tender contested by the TAR took place in January 2015 and drew applications by over 1,200 candidates, 80 of them from abroad. It was part of a broader reform by Culture minister Dario Franceschini. His first step was to choose 20 museums and to give them full managerial autonomy. Then, he changed the old recruitment system and decided to launch an international tender to hire managers.

Now the ruling by the top administrative court has put the directors back in their seats. Franceschini tweeted that the higher court had suspended the earlier sentence, and that the five museum directors will “go back to work tomorrow.”

On June 15, in the same hours as Council of State was issuing its ruling, Italian parliament has given approval to a decree law amending the 2001 law . The regulation introduced in the budget correction prescribes that the limits foreseen for public work in international selection procedures preventing European citizens from taking on posts that imply direct or indirect exercise of power, should not apply.

The game is not over yet. A final decision by the administrative court is due in October. Will it be another episode of the soap opera? Please stay tuned. We don’t know.