It has been a week since the referendum on autonomy in the Italian regions of Veneto and Lombardy regions took place. The central government in Rome is listening and watching carefully. The moment is complicated for internal politics: the general elections are looming in a few months and, of course, it is not possible not to take into account the opinion of the sixteen-million population of these two regions, which produce one third of Italy’s GDP.
Veneto and Lombardy are certainly not Catalonia, this must be clear. The future is much more complicated than it may seem. First, we must consider that there is huge difference between the two Italian regions. In Lombardy, 38% of the electorate took part in the referendum, which is, though large, still a minority, and in Veneto, the other region, 67% went to vote in order to ask for autonomy.
Another important element is that in Veneto, 16% of the people say they would like to see the region independent from Rome. It is a question of money, sghei in the local dialect. And the question is of fiscal revenues firstly. However, for Veneto, in particular, it is also a question of identity. In a region with many small companies, often family businesses operating from small towns, there is real local regionalism, especially after many years of economic crisis and problems in terms of export and job loss.
Veneto Governor Luca Zaia is very strong locally, but these days, he is also growing in national terms, flying on the wings of the referendum itself. Luca Zaia has already asked for a special statute in order to transform Veneto into an autonomous region like the other five regions in Italy: Sicily, Sardinia, Valle d’Aosta, Trentino, and Friuli. This would require a change in the constitution, which is impossible at the moment, especially at the end of the legislative session, with elections in the spring. So, right now, it is more an electoral move than a conclusive plan.
According to Article 116 and related articles of the Italian constitution, there are many areas where regions and the centre can share or compete, in particular, allowing special devolution for the regions with finances in order. Second, when the debate started, this quickly became an electoral issue not only in the north. For example, Apulia is signalling some interest in negotiating more.
Lega Nord is doing very well in the national polls. This party is of course very strong in Lombardy and Veneto, but now its leader Matteo Salvini is trying to go national and transform Lega Nord into an Italian party not confined to the rich northern regions. These days, just after the referendum, a campaign for the party is unfolding in Sicily. So, at the end we do not really expect to see much in terms of more autonomy before there is a new government in place, which is after the elections next spring.