The people of Venice and its surrounding region have voted to split from Italy, with 89 percent favouring independence. The referendum, which took place online over a period of five days, saw a turnout of 73 percent, with just 11 percent voting for the status quo.
The vote, organised by grassroots campaigners, may be unofficial, but the overwhelming result will put pressure on Rome to grant the Veneto region more autonomy and fuel the growing nationalist movement.
Residents of the wealthy region are unhappy with the high taxes imposed on it by Rome to support the poorer south, and many also view independence as a way of ditching the Euro, which they blame for recent economic woes. Campaigners say that the region makes a net loss €21 billion a year thanks to Roman rule.
The proposed independent state would be called ‘Repubblica Veneta’ and would consist of the entirety of Italy’s Veneto region, including the ancient city of Venice, with activists hoping eventually to incorporate parts of the neighbouring Lombardy, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions.
Before the result was announced, the president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, appeared to join the independence campaign, criticising Rome for treating Venice as being “on the far-flung frontiers of the Roman empire”, according to the Daily Telegraph.
He also said that his region is wealthy enough to survive outside of Italy, with its businesses able to survive and adapt outside of an “oppressive” tax system. “Rome just holds us back,” he said.
Venice is the latest European region to witness a growing separatist movement. Scotland is due to hold a referendum on independence from the UK in September this year, with Catalonia following suit and voting on independence from Spain in November. There are also strong independence movements in Spain’s Basque Country and the Belgian region of Flanders.