The Republic of Venice has been part of the Italian state since 1866 when it was acquired by the Kingdom of Italy. Before that, for a thousand years prior to the rise of Napoleon and the wars he unleashed across Europe, the maritime city-state had guarded its independence and built up a wealthy trading empire through the Mediterranean and beyond. Recently, the region of Veneto (of which Venice is the capital) held an online referendum (which is unrecognised by the Italian state) in which 2.1 million of the region’s eligible 3.7 million voters endorsed Veneto’s secession from Italy. Only a quarter million people voted against independence, making it an overwhelming 89% who expressed support for secession. Matt Ford writes about the issue for the Left-wing publication The Atlantic:
Luca Zaia, Veneto’s regional president and the referendum’s most prominent supporter, echoed the sentiments of separatist movements across Europe when he declared that international law allowed “the right to self-determination.” But whether Italian law allows it is a different matter. “The ‘digital plebiscite’ has no legal value and it cannot force anyone to do anything,” claimed Mario Bertolissi, an Italian constitutional scholar. “In short, it has no practical consequences.” But with Scotland voting on independence from the U.K. in September and Catalonia weighing an unauthorized November referendum to leave Spain, it’s worth watching how Veneto’s independence campaign plays out.
President Zaia is a member of the Right-wing Liga Venta, a Venetian nationalist party that is a founding member of the Lega Nord (Northern League). Zaia was elected with 60.2% of the vote (the highest ever for his office). In that election the Liga Venta also became the largest party in the region. The Lega Nord is formed from a union of various nationalist parties in the regions of northern and central Italy. It advocates Padanian nationalism, promotes the Celtic identity of the people of the region and opposes Third World immigration. In 2011 it was the only major party in Italy to oppose the new ‘technocratic’ banker regime in Rome. The Lega Nord also has connections to the League of the South, the largest and most active Southern nationalist organisation. The original name of the League of the South was the Southern League and it was founded in part upon inspiration of the Lega Nord.