‘Serene’ referendum: Italian region votes on restoration of Venetian Republic
Published time: March 16, 2014 10:32
Edited time: March 16, 2014 16:00
Edited time: March 16, 2014 16:00
As Crimeans make their way to the polls this Sunday, another region further in the heart of Europe is also deciding its fate in a referendum: the Italian region of Veneto, which is voting on whether to break with Rome.
The independence movement insists the industrial northern region’s wealth is being drained by Rome’s mismanagement of the financial crisis.
Following in the footsteps of Scotland and Catalonia, Venice – the capital of the Italian region of Veneto – will be holding a referendum to form an independent republic. About 3.8 million people in the region are eligible to vote in the referendum, which runs through Friday.
Leaders of the independence movement say they are not going to wait for Rome’s approval, and if the population votes in favor they will begin the separation process. The latest polls carried out by the independence movement show that over 60 percent of the population is in favor of becoming independent.
"If there is a majority yes vote, we have scholars drawing up a declaration of independence and there are businesses in the region who say they will begin paying taxes to local authorities instead of to Rome,"Lodovico Pizzati, the spokesman for the independence movement, told the Telegraph newspaper.
The president of Veneto, Luca Zaia, who supports the independence movement, said the region is tired of the lack of respect from Rome. With the onset of the financial crisis the movement has been gathering momentum, with many people in the area perceiving Rome’s treatment of the situation as irresponsible.
“Veneto pays its taxes and would like answers from Rome. Rome has not respected the Venetians,” Zaia told Italian publication Liberoquotidiano. “The push for independence comes from the people, it is a democratic request that has come about because of Rome’s indifference.”
He went on to say that Italy was currently experiencing “a kind of ailing democracy” and had become bogged down in bureaucracy.
Gianluca Busato, a prominent Venetian businessman an advocate for independence from Rome, told RT that the Venice region is one of the biggest payers of taxes into Rome’s coffers, but gets nothing like what it shells out in return and as such Rome opposes the vote.
“I think they [the Italian government] are not so happy because Veneto is a rich region. Italy steals 20 billion of taxes that are not returned to us, and so I think the Italian government is not so happy about our will of independence,” he said.
Furthermore, advocates for the independence of the region argue that Rome is draining the northern region of its wealth through taxes in order to support the poorer South of Italy. The independence movement website claims that the region pays €20 billion more in taxes to Rome than it receives in investment and services.
Venice may also sever ties with the European Union and NATO if it gains its independence.
"Venetians not only want out of Italy, but we also want out of the euro, the EU and NATO," Raffaele Serafini, another pro-independence activist, told the Telegraph.
Members of the movement say they have been inspired by Scotland and Catalonia, who have also planned referendums for this year. Scotland will vote for its independence in September, despite statements from the British government that they will not be allowed the pound if they separate. Spain’s government has decried Catalonia’s planned referendum as illegal and in defiance of Spanish sovereignty.
Giovanni Dalla Valle, head of the Veneto independence movement, told RT that there is nothing Italy can do to stop the region from becoming independent.
“We have to fight for it [independence]. We will do it in a peaceful, diplomatic way. We do strongly believe that when the majority wants to be independent there is nothing they [the Italian government] can do,” he said to RT.
He went on to say that the established world order favors centralized governments and that is why many referendums are condemned as illegal.
Prior to joining Italy in 1866, the region of Veneto was known as “La Serenissima” – the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The Republic lost its independence when Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797.
The West has condemned the upcoming referendum in Crimea as “illegitimate” and is preparing sanctions against Russia. However, the West’s seemingly random policy on other referendums hints at a double standard in their governments’ rhetoric.
Crimea will vote Sunday whether to remain an autonomous region in Ukraine or to join with Russia. Western leaders have claimed the referendum is a farce and that Russian forces have occupied the region. Moscow, however, maintains there has been no such invasion and the referendum represents the Crimeans’ right to self-determination.
In the past the West has not batted an eyelid when countries sought to hold referendums and in some cases actively supported them.
Washington was quick off the mark with Kosovo, backing the region’s independence two years before the UN declared it was legal in 2008. NATO forces intervened 1999, carrying out a massive bomb campaign on targets in Serbia and in Kosovo. Human Rights Watch reported that over 500 civilians were killed in NATO’s incursion into the former Yugoslavia.
After a long and bloody conflict, South Sudan separated from the north in 2011 to become the world’s youngest nation state. Then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the move as a historic day and“a testament to the tireless efforts of the people of South Sudan in their search for peace.” Washington has since spent around $600 million in building the new nation, but has frozen payments because of an escalation of violence in the fledgling nation.
The UK government held a referendum in overseas territory the Falklands in 2013 to ascertain whether the islanders wished to remain a British colony. In spite of Argentinian protests, the West did not move to intervene and stop the vote. Argentina lays claim to the Islands, calling them the Malvinas. In the referendum an overwhelming 98.8 percent of the Falklands population voted to remain British.
The Scottish government has scheduled a referendum for September 2014 to ask its population whether it wants independence from the United Kingdom. Britain has said if Scotland breaks away it will not be able to use the pound and will have to reapply for EU membership. The Scottish government, for its part, has resolved to eject all British nuclear weapons from the country should its population vote to be separate.
The autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia has announced it will hold a vote to decide on whether it wants independence from Spain in September. Madrid has slammed the referendum as illegal and in violation of the Spanish constitution because it questions Spanish sovereignty. Spain’s crippling financial crisis has led to a growing separatist movement in Catalonia over the last few years.