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Painting of Venice by Canaletto

Two Italian regions schedule referendums for greater autonomy

Two of Italy’s wealthiest regions will soon hold referendums on whether or not its leaders should push for greater autonomy.

Published: October 5, 2017, 7:01 pm

    Later this month, Lombardy and Veneto, will both go to the polls to decide on more regional powers and less control from Rome.

    Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Its population is about five million, ranking fifth in Italy. The region’s capital and most-populous city is Venice. One of Italy’s largest regions, Lombardy lies in the north of the country, sharing a border with Switzerland.

    Luca Zaia, the Governor of Veneto, originally wanted to host a referendum on seceding from Italy or more control over taxation in the region, but the Italian Constitutional Court blocked the plan.

    Zaia had to scale back on the initial proposals and has instead asked voters whether or not they support “increased measures and particular conditions of autonomy”.

    Although these referendums would not be legally binding, they could have a significant impact on the Italian general election, set to be held towards May next year.

    Lombardy and Veneto are responsible for producing respectively around 20 and ten percent of Italy’s total GDP.

    A ‘yes’ vote could force the hand of a new Prime Minister in Rome to devolve decision-making to regions or risk them declaring independence, as Catalonia did last week.

    Lombardy’s Regional President Roberto Maroni explained: “It’s all about the money,” adding that if the state gives them more funds, he wwould not hold the referendum.

    “They aren’t asking for ‘independence’ but administrative authority,” he explained. “First they’ll vote, then in the event of a ‘yes’, the state will need to decide how to react. There are two main ways the issue could be settled: a reform of the entire country toward a federal system, or the possibility of particular regions being given special status.”

    Some regional leaders of the anti-immigration Northern League party, have supported independence for the northern regions.

    Matteo Salvini, Northern League leader, however slammed both sides in the Catalan debate. “Ours is a completely different choice from Catalonia,” he said. “We have chosen the peaceful path, respecting the rules and managing it better. On October 22nd [the date of the referendums], there will be no police. ”

    He critised the Spanish government’s forceful response, saying: “A government that uses violence to empty and close polling booths, using violence against children and the elderly, is shameful”.

    Flemish Minister-President, Geert Bourgeois, meanwhile said during a radio interview that he was jealous of the Catalans, following their historic vote for independence on Sunday.

    “Everyone is always asking what N-VA will do. However, it is clear what N-VA is and that is a nationalist party. We are jealous of the Catalans.”

    Bourgeois said that if more Belgians had expressed pride in their identity, secession would have had more support. In Catalonia, he said, politicians and cultural figures from across the political spectrum support greater Catalan autonomy.

    “The world of sport, the world of sport, football club Barça, the world of culture, the unions… they all support it. There are Catalan flags everywhere”.

    He could not say if the Catalan vote would empower Flemish secessionists: “We should see how the situation evolves. N-VA are for self-determination, but there is still a long way to go. We operate in a totally different context.”

    But Bourgeois slammed the EU’s response to the violence, saying it should have condemned the violence sooner. The Flemish politician expressed hope in dialogue between all parties. “If this doesn’t prove possible then an arbitrator should be appointed,” he added.

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