The CNEL's programme for the next five years primarily aligns with the fulfilment of this constitutional principle of high programmatic value. This is due to the fact that the institutional mission of the Third Chamber, which I have the honour to preside over, is already enshrined in the very first article of our Constitution. This mission isn't just about emphasising the centrality of work as a cornerstone of human dignity, but it also encapsulates the idea of a polyarchy in which various expressions of powers and knowledge are balanced in a constant dialectical tension. This occurs not only in the comparison between direct and representative democracy but also, within the latter, between elected representatives and interest representatives. When the fathers of the Founding Fathers stated that popular sovereignty is exercised "in the forms and within the limits set by the Constitution," they aim to identify the checks and balances that compose the exercise of the right to vote within a more complex framework. In the Article 99 of the same Charter this principle is defined in detail, and by establishing the CNEL and prescribing a legal requirement for its organisation, it is indicated that it should be "composed of experts and representatives of economic categories," bearers of knowledge and bearers of interests, "in a manner that takes into account their numerical and qualitative relevance." Knowledge and interests constitute the intermediary bodies, that is to say that even if that part of sovereignty is not directly tied to the ballot box, it embodies the civil, social, and economic wealth of the national community in its various forms and as a whole.
This preamble is necessary because we are coming out of a decade that marked a crisis of democracy, conceived as a hollowing out of representation and the progressive marginalisation of intermediary bodies, in the name of a falsifying utopia that was believed to reduce sovereignty to the exercise of the right to vote, thus betraying the spirit of the Constitution.
The illusion of a disintermediated society has been shattered by the global crises of the past three years, with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine being the most prominent among them. While trying to tackle these crises, democracies have presented the best defence when they have engaged in the fullness of their dialectic, activating cooperation and solidarity to address the emergency.
In the era of transitions that lies ahead of us, this perfect constitutional adherence described here becomes even more crucial. We are at the heart of a radical renewal that equally impacts the economy and society, replacing old paradigms and transferring new responsibilities. The ongoing digital and environmental revolutions are the two Cartesian coordinates that are about to change the work and lives of four hundred million people in the Old Continent. However, a third dimension, the demographic one, strongly links them similarly, and imposes to deal with a population that is ageing and in decline and that, at current rates, will result in the loss of eight million Italians of working age from the labour market over the next thirty years.
Processes of this magnitude bring asymmetrical effects on societies. There is a risk of opening a furrow between those who benefit from transitions and those who suffer them. In addition, the increasing polarisation of the public debate on these issues has opened up a conflict that is destined not so much to hold back change as to leave it without political leadership and direction. We therefore need precise analyses of the impacts that these processes have on all productive realities, and policies aimed at cushioning their social costs and protecting the most fragile. What is more, responsibilities must be transferred from the central level to the territorial level, such as the contexts on which transitions create an impact. It follows that the real protagonists of the transformation are the intermediate bodies of society. They are protagonists because they are the inevitable recipients of the changes, mediated by labour, and because they are the decision-makers at the most efficient level of the actions that are necessary to manage them. If the intermediate bodies give in to the polarisation of the political and civil debate, if they protect themselves in a sceptical resistance, if they only think of profiting in a specific logic, contemporary societies, and perhaps the whole world, will have missed both an opportunity for development and a lifeboat.
As written in the introduction to this brochure, the CNEL is the place capable of transforming the interests of intermediate bodies into civic responsibilities and virtues. This is achieved through a constant and cooperative dialogue between trade unions, employers, and voluntary sector representatives, as well as the academia and the Country's scientific and cultural excellences. Keeping the dialogue between these energies of Italian society alive, aiming for a virtuous synthesis, will be the first commitment of this Council term. It is time for a leading role and renewed responsibility from those who know and can work for the common good, contributing not only to the construction of a vision of the future we want, but also to its concrete implementation in society, in economic sectors, in communities, and in new workplaces. The priority is to patiently rebuild that network of relations and those institutional venues that give shape and substance to the inalienable duties of political, economic, and social solidarity referred to in our Constitutional Charter. This is the safest way to contribute to the full development of the human beings and the effective participation of economic and social forces in the great opportunity that the current change offers us and that we cannot waste.
It means experiencing the transition, not undergoing it. It means updating and redesigning 20th century achievements in the areas of welfare, labour, wages, distribution of productivity gains, participation, economic democracy, education, investment, human capital, inclusion and volunteering, distributional conflicts, taxation of capital and labour, environmental protection and sustainability, management of migratory flows and demographic policies, innovation and much more.
There is a demand for re-politicisation in contemporary democracies as a response to both the crisis of globalisation and the changes we have described here. Correcting asymmetries and inequalities, guiding the opportunities of technology, and governing the interdependence of economic and civil processes are aspects that require a new social market economy, the only one capable of activating the energies of individual freedoms and the resources of collective solidarity, shared in a subsidiary spirit between public and private sectors, government and citizens, institutions, and intermediate bodies.
This is the place in which the work for the future outcome lies. Through the institutional dialogue and the consultative and legislative initiative functions attributed to it by the Constitution, the CNEL will contribute to the democratic debate by providing analyses, opinions, and legislative proposals, and by developing agreements and other forms of collaboration with other institutional actors, through which the voice of labour, business, volunteering, academia, and knowledge can reach the decision-making bodies. In the spirit of making the popular sovereignty truly complete, which makes a democracy wholesome.
To consult the composition of the 11th Term, visit the page in Italian: https://www.cnel.it/Chi-Siamo/XI-Consiliatura