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La Serenissima Gets Surly
Venetians Vote (Unofficially) for Independence

The Veneto, the 5 million strong region of northern Italy that includes Venice itself, has voted for independence in a referendum with 89 percent support. The referendum is unofficial and will not lead to independence, but it does at the point to a very real frustration Venetians are feeling with the Italian state. The Telegraph reports:

Giving his backing to the referendum last week, Veneto governor Luca Zaia said residents were currently paying 68.5 percent of their incomes in taxes to Rome, which he accused of using the cash to prop up insolvent towns in Italy.

“We have 581 local councils and not one is in the red,” he said.

“Rome treats us as the edge of the empire, good only to pay taxes.”

The Daily Mail noted that Venetian activists have been working with the Scots to coordinate their agendas in working towards independence.

There’s an argument that Venice has a stronger case for independence than Scotland. It’s been independent for a longer period of time, united with the rest of Italy for a shorter period of time, and was never given the option to vote on joining the Italian state. To quote Wordsworth’s “On The Extinction of the Venetian Republic”:

Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee;
And was the safeguard of the west: the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
She was a maiden City, bright and free;
No guile seduced, no force could violate;
And, when she took unto herself a Mate,
She must espouse the everlasting Sea.
And what if she had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
When her long life hath reached its final day:
Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
Of that which once was great is passed away.

There’s a stronger fiscal case as well—Scotland gets more than it pays in taxes from UK, while Venice is a huge net contributor to the not very effective or transparent Italian state budget.

We’re not holding our breath waiting for Italy to dissolve, but we can’t help but think that if the vanished states of yesteryear should begin to return, La Serenissima, the great maritime republic that once held the gorgeous east in fee, would not be the least storied or glorious state to resume its place in the pageant of history.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Actually, 55% of the 89% who voted support independence.

    • Enemy Leopard

      I hate to (continue to) sound nitpicky, but the author had it right:

      “Organisers said that of a total of 2.36 million votes cast, out of a total of 3.7 million qualified voters, 2.1 million voted for independence and a quarter of a million voted against.”

      As the the British spelling, SIC.

      • Andrew Allison

        The author writes, “in a referendum with 89 percent support.” thereby confusing the voter turnout with the results:
        “Over 89 percent of residents in Italy’s Veneto region have voted in an unofficial referendum in favor of independence . . . . More than 55 percent of voters said they would prefer an independent Veneto”

        • Enemy Leopard

          Perhaps the problem here is that the two linked articles disagree. The numbers that I quoted from the Telegraph are clear: The voter turnout was 64% and the vote went 89% in favor of independence, yielding a total of 57% of registered voters who voted for independence and 43% who either didn’t vote or voted against independence. However, the Daily Mail makes different, and self-contradictory, claims.

          • Andrew Allison

            I think the problem is that the sources you cite only read the headline of the original one:

          • Enemy Leopard

            For crying out loud, I try to be precise when I make empirical claims. The article you link to is less informative than the one in the Telegraph, because it doesn’t include any vote totals. The totals on the Wikipedia page about the vote yield essentially the same result: 89% of those who voted supported independence. See:


            That page also cites its sources, which I’m not going to bother delving into because they’re in Italian. Unless you can show that these vote totals are substantially wrong, there’s nothing left to discuss.

          • Andrew Allison

            You are, more-or-less, correct
            VALID VOTES: 2,360,235, accounting for 63.23% of those entitled to vote
            YES: 2,102,969, equal to 89.10% of the valid votes cast
            NO: 257 266, accounting for 10.90% of the valid votes cast
            NOT VALID VOTES: 6,815, corresponding to 0.29% of the valid votes cast

  • Dan

    68.5% of their income in taxes? Good Grief, that seems to require more than just a strongly worded referendum if you ask me.

    • Andrew Allison

      Social Democracy at work. Well illustrated by

      • Dan

        You don’t have to tell me, I just moved to CT…. from NY…. by choice…. well, wife’s choice but same thing =)

    • Jim__L

      How would the rest of Europe respond if their own cash cows started bolting from the milking shed? I suspect that the EU would make life difficult for Venetian independence, unless there’s some form of “free city” arrangement that pays taxes directly to Brussels…

      • Andrew Allison

        There’s no way that the EU will permit spin-offs from current members to join. No EU, no Euro. This was made clear with respect to the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. If Scotland we allowed in, Catalonia would be close behind, the Basques behind them, etc.

        It’s sort of like not being able to create a new US State from an existing one (something which the proponents of the sextification of CA appear to have overlooked).

        • Jim__L

          If Brussels offered some form of “free city” membership model (that included direct tax payments to Brussels) in parallel with its nation-state model of membership, it would be interesting to see whether Brussels or national capitals had more clout.

          Currently, you’re probably right that nations have more clout. In the future? I’m not so sure.

          • Andrew Allison

            I fear that you have confused Venice and Ventano: no city has proposed independent statehood. The Ventano question is particularly relevant since the region contributes much more to what is laughingly referred to as the Italian “government” than it receives.

            The EU membership is faced not just with the threat of nationalistic enclaves, but of prosperous ones spinning off from their parent countries. It’s not going to happen.

  • free_agent

    It could get interesting if Venice, Turin, and Milan start to agitate together…

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