Capital City: Palermo
Area: 25.728 km2
Total Population: 5.029.683
Density: 196 inhabitants per km2
Geography and Population
Sicily is formed by 15 islands and counts 5 millions of inhabitants. It is the largest and most important island in the Mediterranean, and until the fourteenth century Sicily was the most important island in Europe. Though the Mediterranean is usually considered a single body of water, Sicily's shores are washed by two of its smaller seas: the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian. Most of the island's surface, covering more than 25,000 square kilometers, is mountainous and hilly, with some level coastal areas and a large plain near Catania. At 3342 meters, Mount Etna is the highest peak, and Europe's largest active volcano. A number of small islands located around Sicily are popular tourist resorts, the volcanic Aeolian (or Lipari) archipelago being the largest group. The extensive coastline ranges from rocky cliffs to sandy beaches, but Sicily also offers other fascinating natural sights such as Alcantara Gorge (near Taormina), various caverns (Carburangeli near Carini and others around Sicily and on the surrounding islands), and the grey mud flows formed by sporadic geysers that give Maccalube, near Aragona, its moonlike appearance.
The weather offers little rain in autumn and winter, whereas it is mostly sunny with an average temperature between 7° and 14° in January-February, and 30°-35° in July-August.
The vegetation of Sicily is remarkably diverse. There are numerous trees (flowering shrubs and grasses, cactus, palm trees and stone pines) and a great variety of agricultural production (ranging from citrus fruits to grapes, olives to artichokes, pistachios to mulberries).
The agriculture is still the most important sector of activity.
There are 2 metropolitan areas with almost 1 million of inhabitants: in the north-west Palermo, the ancient capital with the headquarters of the regional institutions, and in the east Catania, with the biggest industrial area (district of microelectronics with ST. Thompson in the Etna Valley).
Other urban and productive areas are located around Messina, Syracuse and Gela (petrochemical industry), Ragusa (food industry with an interesting Mediterranean model of development), Mazara del Vallo (the most important fishing district of the Mediterranean and a model of intercultural multiethnic society with its 10.000 north-Africans) and Trapani-Marsala at the west extremity (salt, tuna-fishing and wine).
The institutional framework
The Sicilian Statute establishes three institutions: the President, the Regional Council, the Regional Assembly. The President and the Regional Council constitute the Regional Government.
The President of the Region is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of 5 years. He is entitled to participate with the rank of Minister to the meetings of the European Council of Ministers.
The President of the Region of Sicily is currently Raffaele LOMBARDO, who was elected in April 2008.
The Regional Council consists of 11 Regional Ministers, each responsible of one or several policies.
The Parliament (Sicilian Regional Assembly) is composed by 90 deputies, elected every 5 years in the 9 regional provinces, it has its headquarter in the ancient Palace of the Norman Kings. It is one of the most ancient parliaments of Europe (1130 a.C.). Its current President is Francesco CASCIO.
Autonomy and Legislative Powers
The Region of Sicily, founded by the Royal Decree of the 15th May 1946 (before the foundation of the Italian Republic) is the most ancient region and has the widest legislative power in Italy. It has a special form and condition of autonomy pursuant to the special statute adopted by constitutional law. Under the art.117 of the Italian Constitution, the Region of Sicily exclusive legislative powers in all fields that are not expressly covered by State legislation. The State has exclusive legislative powers in the following areas: foreign policy and international relations of the State; relations between the State and the European Union; right of asylum and legal status of non-EU citizens; immigration; relations between the Republic and religious denominations; defence and armed forces; State security; armaments, ammunition and explosives; currency, savings protection and financial markets; competition protection; foreign exchange system; state taxation and accounting systems; equalisation of financial resources; state bodies and relevant electoral laws; state referenda; elections to the European Parliament; legal and administrative organisation of the State and of national public agencies; public order and security, with the exception of local administrative police; citizenship, civil status and register offices; jurisdiction and procedural law; civil and criminal law; administrative judicial system; determination of the basic level of benefits relating to civil and social entitlements to be guaranteed throughout the national territory; general provisions on education; social security; electoral legislation, governing bodies and fundamental functions of the Municipalities, Provinces and Metropolitan Cities; customs, protection of national borders and international prophylaxis; weights and measures; standard time; statistical and computerised co-ordination of data of state, regional and local administrations; works of the intellect; protection of the environment, the ecosystem and cultural heritage.
In other areas the legislative competence is shared by the Region of Sicily with the central level: international and EU relations of the Region; foreign trade; job protection and safety; education, subject to the autonomy of educational institutions and with the exception of vocational education and training; professions; scientific and technological research and innovation support for productive sectors; health protection; nutrition; sports; disaster relief; land-use planning; civil ports and airports; large transport and navigation networks; communications; national production, transport and distribution of energy; complementary and supplementary social security; harmonisation of public accounts and co-ordination of public finance and the taxation system; enhancement of cultural and environmental assets, including the promotion and organisation of cultural activities; savings banks, rural banks, regional credit institutions; regional land and agricultural credit institutions.
Furthermore, for all Italian autonomous Regions, such as Sicily, the Constitution foresees the possibility to participate in the preparatory decision-making process of EU legislation falling in their areas of exclusive or shared competence. They are also responsible for the implementation of international agreements and EU measures, subject to the rules set out in State law, which regulate the exercise of subsidiary powers by the State in the case of non-performance by the Regions and Autonomous provinces.