Brescia Court of Appeal quashes lettori cases: the European Commission must act

09 November 2015

David Petrie at the European Parliament - December 2014

The latest twist in the story of foreign lecturers fighting for equality at Italian universities was delivered by the Brescia Court of Appeal. The “lettori” — literally “readers” — were informed that their cases against Italian universities, to be treated equally as Italian university staff, have simply been "extinguished".

The Brescia Court of Appeal's decision effectively quashes a lower court's judgment that found in favour of the lettori[1]. The Court of Appeal's use of the Gelmini law raises serious questions for the European Commission and its oversight of member states' interpretation of EU law. 

David Petrie - a British lettori - first brought his case to European Parliament Petitions Committee in 1998 to complain about discrimination by Italian universities against non-Italian teachers and to call for equal treatment.

Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling and member of the Petitions Committee:

"The decision by the Brescia Court of Appeal to extinguish the court cases of 2 Britons and an American is a clear breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. The right to an effective remedy and a fair trial is enshrined in EU law. We cannot let this decision pass unchallenged.

"Member States are bound to uphold and guarantee the implementation of EU law and the judgments of the European Court of Justice (of which there have been 6 concerning lettori). Instead the Brescia Court of Appeal has applied an Italian law - known as Gelmini - which ends the cases of these 3 non-Italian workers, thereby denying them a judicial remedy. 

"After David Petrie's last visit to the European Parliament Petitions Committee the European Commission clearly committed (29 September 2015) to assess opening infringement proceedings against the Italian authorities for its handling of the lettori cases.

"Therefore, Today I have written to Marianne Thyssen the Commissioner Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to act on its commitment to open infringement proceeding against the Italian authorities. We cannot have a situation where a Member State chooses to reinterpret EU law to suit its own needs."


[1] Mr Coates (53), Dermot Costello, UK citizen (64) and US citizen Bettie Mims (72).

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