Italy’s New Bill Will Impose Five-Figure Fines on Climate Activists and Others Who Deface Cultural Heritage Sites

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Vandals attacking monuments and other cultural sites in Italy may soon face five-figure fines, thanks to a new piece of legislation.  

In a meeting Tuesday, the country’s Council of Ministers approved a bill that would impose fines between €10,000 and €60,000 ($11,000 and $66,000) on defacers of cultural heritage. Vandals could be hit with criminal charges, too.

The bill, proposed by Italy’s recently-appointed Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, comes in the wake of recent high-profile acts of vandalism, including many instigated by climate activists. Earlier this month, members of the group Ultima Generazione dyed the water in Rome’s famous Barcaccia Fountain black—a demonstration against the government’s commitment to fossil fuels.  

The same group spray-painted the façade of the Palazzo Madama, the 15th-century home of the Italian Senate, in January. “Behind the act [is] the desperation stemming from the continual issuing of ever more alarming statistics and data on the eco-climate collapse,” Ultima Generazione said at the time. 

Approvato in Cdm un disegno di legge per contrastare i sempre più frequenti fenomeni di vandalismo che colpiscono i beni culturali e paesaggistici, aggiungendo sanzioni amministrative a quelle penali. Chi danneggia il nostro patrimonio artistico non può e non deve farla franca. pic.twitter.com/wayIRuBAEt

— Giorgia Meloni (@GiorgiaMeloni) April 12, 2023

It cost the government €40,000 ($44,000) to clean the building, Sangiuliano explained in a statement this week. 

“The attacks on monuments and artistic sites produce economic damage to all,” the minister said. “To clean it up, the intervention of highly specialized personnel and the use of very costly machines are needed.” 

“Whoever carries out these acts must assume also the financial responsibility,” Sangiuliano added. 

Following the cabinet’s approval, the law must be adopted by Parliament within 60 days, or it will expire. There’s little expectation that it won’t pass, though; Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government holds a majority in the legislature.  

Activists aren’t the only ones reshaping Italy’s cultural sites these days. Last year, a man drove a rented Maserati down the Spanish Steps—a UNESCO World Heritage Site located behind the Barcaccia fountain—taking out a chunk of stone in the process. Weeks later, a pair of American tourists did something similar with motorized scooters. The incidents caused €50,000 ($54,649) and €25,000 (about $27,000) in damage, respectively.

 

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