While the referendum over Crimea’s secession from Ukraine continues to make headlines worldwide, a much lower-profile poll for independence is gaining momentum in Italy: the vote for the breakaway of Venice. Residents of the northern Italian region of Veneto – Venice being its main city – are voting this week on whether to secede from Italy and create their own independent and sovereign republic. The Veneto is the former heartland of the powerful maritime Republic of Venice, the economic and trading power that lasted from the 7th to the 18th century. Today it’s Italy’s richest region, thanks to the wealth created by yearlong tourism and a strong industrial base. But ever since Veneto became part of Italy in 1866, resentment towards Rome has been growing steadily. Many in the region feel their wealth is unfairly squandered by the inefficient central government and that it is used to bankroll the poorer south. The referendum’s organizers say it’s time to cut the cord.
“Since Veneto was annexed to Italy in the 19th century we have never felt fully Italian, as we have our own culture and traditions,” Gianluca Busato, a leader of the referendum push, told NBC News.
“But the main reason behind our need for independence is socio-economic. Each year we pay Italy almost $100 billion in taxes, but $30 billion of it never makes it back in the form of services to the region. The government squanders our money! We are better off taking care of ourselves.”