Milan Mayor voting for autonomy

Catalan, Lombardy

ROME- The Lombardy referendum is fast approaching and the consensus over the rationality and effects of a ‘yes’ vote are unclear. ‘The referendum on autonomy in Lombardy will not bring more money to the region or the billions that some people are talking about’ said Former Governor Roberto Formigoni. Mayor Giuseppe Sala has officially confirmed his support for the independence movement, yet warned that one should not vote yes simply for better taxation.  The President of the Region, Roberto Maroni, differentiated the movement from that of Catalonia by stating that ‘Lombardia's Oct. 22 referendum is a different thing to that of Catalonia, because it is a referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish government calling for independence, we work within the framework of national unity.’

 The Lombardy citizens that plan to vote yes seemingly do not have a unified purpose, goal, or rationality. In order to clarify the mentality we reached out to Juri Orsi, the spokesman of Pro-Lombardia Indipendenza. PLI is a minor party who presents itself as having the non-partisan goal of advocating independence, although it seems that the official position in this referendum is for autonomy as a step in this direction. In order to offer another view on what is fast becoming a conversation between powerful regional players, we had Orsi answer a number of questions:


What are the demographics of support (percentage of population, age, membership to specific political parties and so on) for Lombardy separatism?

Nowadays, the majority of the Lombard electorate support further autonomy for the Lombard region. Only a minority, although constantly increasing, support separatism. The greater part of this minority is composed of young people and free workers.

How do the Lombard and Catalonian movements differ in terms of alignment on the political spectrum?

Catalan separatism is mainly left-oriented, since the centrist party of Convergencia now called PDECAT, turned into a separatist party only in the last years. Lombard separatism is a very recent phenomenon. Historically, the claims for further autonomy or at least a further consideration in the Italian political scenario started a few decades after the unification. At the beginning of the XX century these claims were supported by the socialist movements, after WW2 by some Catholic federalist thinkers. The only example of a political party that for a few years claimed to be in favour of the secession of Lombardy from Italy, as part of a Northern Italian republic, was the Northern League. As a matter of fact this party never pursued a separatist political strategy, and in a few years turned into an extreme right party with vague support for a federal reform of the Italian state. Pro Lombardia Indipendenza, for whom I am the spokesperson, decided to focus only on independence and on direct democracy, facing the different issues that affect Lombardy with a pragmatic point of view, and not an ideological one.

Of your supporters, how many do you think would be satisfied solely by changes in tax law?

It’s probably about 15 or 20 percent. This is of course limited to our supporters and not taking about the whole electorate.

Of your supporters, how many do you think would be satisfied by greater representation within central government?

As a matter of fact Lombardy enjoyed good representation in the central government. Several ministers and important political personalities have been Lombard. Unfortunately, they never represented the real interests of Lombardy in the Italian institution. Therefore, further representation would not be enough.

Do you believe that the European Union runs counter to your organisation’s belief in autonomy and self governance?

The behaviour of the EU regarding the Catalan case will show the orientation of the European institutions regarding the people’s right to decide to which state they want to belong. Anyway, we are members of EFA (European Free Alliance), along with the main separatist parties in Europe.

Do you believe the notion of separatisms, especially when strongly influenced by desire for lesser taxation, goes against, to quote the Italian Constitutional Court, 'the principles of loyalty and collaboration.'

According to our party, the rhetoric use of 'collaboration and loyalty' and the prominence of the Italian national interests represents only a method to maintain the actual unfair redistribution of taxes. Every year Lombardy 'collaborates' by giving more than 50 billion euros, that is, more than 500 billion in the last ten years. This disparity is said to be aimed at reducing the underdevelopment of the Southern region. But this situation has only got worse in the last years. This huge amount of money has been used only to keep alive a patronage system in the Southern region, which is used by politicians and governors to maintain their political power. This system is not working at all, and both the Lombard and the Southern Italian population are victims of it.

What do you think the result of a 'yes vote' would realistically be in the referendum on the 22nd?

Taking into account that no important party stands for the No to the referendum, I suggest that the yes will win with at least the 65 percent of the votes. The turnout will be the most interesting features; probably will be around 55 or 60 percent.

Is this referendum intended, in your opinion, to create a separate state or is it part of a plan to change Lombardy’s position within the Italian political scene? 

No, this referendum is intended to gain further autonomy from the central government. Actually, the non-binding nature of the referendum, and the lack of consent from the central government to grant autonomy to Lombardy will turn the referendum into a simple poll. We hope that the political debate that has been introduced in the last weeks regarding the status of Lombardy in the Italian state will continue, and that an important part of the electorate will understand how the true interests of Lombardy and of the Lombard people could be represented only with the institution of a Lombard independent republic.