But in 1866, Italy swallowed Venice.
After nearly 150 years as a part of Italy, ask a Venetian his nationality and he will proudly say that he is a Venetian and point to the more than 1,000-year history of his homeland.
While Scotland has caught the attention of the globe with its coming referendum, the northern region of Veneto is also fighting for its right of self-determination. This is yet another example of big government failing to meet the needs of small regions of people — this is particularly true for areas that have a long history of being independent.
In March, Veneto held an unofficial referendum, in which 56% of registered voters participated. Of those voters, 89% voted for independence. In fact, two opinion polls in March supported independence for the region, with responses coming in at 51% and 54% in favor. That’s significantly higher than any poll taken ahead of Scotland’s vote in favor of independence.
But the central government in Rome called Veneto’s vote unconstitutional.
The police arrested 24 separatists last week, charging them with terrorism, fabrication of weapons of war and subversion of democratic order. The group allegedly created a “tank” by welding metal sheets to a bulldozer. They are accused of planning to deploy the “tank” in St. Mark’s Square in Venice on the eve of European parliamentary elections. Though, I find myself wondering how they were planning to get it to the square when the bulldozer-turned-tank wasn’t exactly gondola sized.
Elsewhere, police seized weapons in raids linked to other secession movements in:
- Piedmont and on the island of
- Sicily cries for its independence, with protesters marching on Palermo last weekend.
But Rome continues to turn a deaf ear to its people.
Of course, it’s understandable why the central government is fighting the movement. Veneto is an industrial and financial powerhouse for Italy. The region pays more than €70 billion in taxes but receives only €49 billion in services such as health care. Taxes — already above 60% — strangle the people of Veneto. And now a second unelected government, with Matteo Renzi stepping into power as the new prime minister, is making laws for Veneto.
Venetians are trapped paying into a system that isn’t seeing to their needs and doesn’t care to listen to what they want. The bloated Roman central government is out of touch with its people, leaving citizens with no choice but to return to the independent republics they once were. By taking back the power to rule themselves, the people of Veneto can address the problems that are concerning them most, and will no longer have to pay for the ills that are plaguing Palermo, Naples or even Rome.
For now, the recent secession movement in Italy has been a bloodless battle. However, Rome need look no further than Ireland’s fight for independence to see that it doesn’t have to remain bloodless. The will of the people cannot be stopped when it comes to securing their right to self-determination.
“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”
— William Butler Yeats