The Strategist

The Italian North is eager for autonomy

10/23/2017 - 15:42

Residents of two northern Italian provinces - Veneto and Lombardy - voted in referendums on the issue of the autonomy of their regions. 98% of those who came to the plebiscite in Veneto said they were "for" the autonomy; this number reached 95.38% in Lombardy. However, the referendums in these provinces were of a recommendatory nature - their results would allow local authorities to begin negotiations with Rome on obtaining the status of autonomy.

A significant number of residents of the regions of Veneto and Lombardy supported the idea of the autonomy of their regions, as can be seen in the results of referendums that took place on Sunday in the North Italian regions. In the Venetian region after the vote counting, the turnout was 57.2% of voters, of which 98.1% voted for autonomy. 1.9% of voters were "against".

Earlier, the Veneto governor Luka Zaia said that more than 2 million people participated in the referendum, according to preliminary data. "This is the victory of Veneto’s citizens, the victory of civil consciousness, the victory of people who want to be masters in their home", - said Zaia after the closure of polling stations on Sunday, October 22. Also, Zaia promised to begin work with the Italian government on the issues put forward by Veneto. 

31.8% of the population participated in the referendum in neighboring Lombardy. 95.38% of the voters cast their votes "for" and 3.86% voted "against". On Sunday evening, the Governor of Lombardy Roberto Maroni said that the final turnout was more than 40%. 

"So far, about a third of the data has been processed: over 95% of the results that came from the polling stations said yes, and about 3% are against," Maroni said. "I realize that the people of the region have assigned an important obligation on me - to express their will. This means that I must go to Rome and get more powers and more resources in the name of our national unity, taking into account the specifics of the Lombardy region," Maroni said.

Former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi earlier supported the referendum, promising to give the regions increased autonomy in the event of the victory of his party "Forza Italia".
Both referendums were of a recommendatory and consultative nature. They do not have legal force and do not imply any obligatory changes.

Having received popular approval, the governors of Lombardy and Veneto will have to begin negotiations with the Roman government. The results of these negotiations will determine the range of powers delegated to the provinces, as well as the share of taxes that they will be able to withhold in their budgets.

According to Veneto governor Luka Zaia, the province of Veneto intends to seek a right to rule in 23 spheres, which includes education, health care, transport and environmental protection. Also, taking an example from the neighboring autonomous region of Trentino, the governor announced his intention to demand preservation of 90% of the tax collections in Veneto’s treasury.

According to the Italian media, the government of Lombardy wants to save 50% of the tax collected in the treasury of the region and wants fiscal autonomy.

Veneto and Lombardy are the richest regions in Italy. Now, they pay more taxes to the state treasury than they receive back in the form of grants and subsidies. The total GDP of Lombardy and Veneto is one-third of the total Italian economy.

Lombardy’s main city, Milan, is the capital of the Apennine finances. The city is on the fourth place among European agglomerations in terms of GDP. If Milan were a separate state, then its economy would be equal to the economy of Austria, which is on the 28th place in the list of global economies.

Now Rome gives Lombardy 54 billion euros less than receives from it. The situation is slightly less dramatic with Veneto - the province receives 15.5 billion euro less than it brings to the Italian treasury. "Now we can write a new page: regions that ask for more energy will get it," said Roberto Maroni. He believes that discussing taxes which usually go to Rome is the first step on a way to large reforms ".

In addition to taxes, the governors of the northern regions want to bring to consideration some political questions. There are five autonomous statuses of the 21 Italian regions: Valle d'Aosta, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily and Trentino-Alto Adige.

According to the Constitution of Italy, any province can commence negotiations for the revision of its status directly, without holding a referendum.

It is worth adding that both Maroni and Zaia are members of the right-wing opposition party Lega Nord (LN; literally "North League"). The party is known for its euroscepticism and regionalism. In the mid-nineties, the North League advocated secession from Italy and creation of an independent cisalpine state of Padania with its capital in Milan. However, the north-western Rights are now in favor of expanding the autonomy of the regions.