Venetian nationalism

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Flag of the Republic of Venice

Venetian nationalism (also Venetism,[1] from the Venetian/Italian name, venetismo) is a regionalist movement promoting the re-discovery of the Republic of Venice's heritage, traditions, culture and language and/or demanding more autonomy or even independence from Italy for Veneto. According to journalist Paolo Possamai, Venetism is "the strain of Veneto and of Venetians toward the recognition of their identity and autonomy".[2] Venetism is a broad movement, which definitely includes Venetist parties, notably Liga Veneta, but also encompasses people from all the political parties.

Venetists consider Veneto to be a nation distinct from Italy and often refuse the validity of the result of the referendum with which Veneto (or, better, Venetia, see below) was united with Italy in 1866.[3][4][5][6] Some, as the members of the Venetian National Party/Veneto State[7] and those of Venetian Independence, propose a re-edition of that referendum and campaign for the independence of Venetia, a country that would be composed of all the territories of the historical Venetian Republic, covering current Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, large chunks of Lombardy (the provinces of Brescia and Bergamo, the area around Crema and a portion of the province of Mantua), and Trentino.[8] Although it usually refers to the whole Venetian autonomist movement, the term "Venetism" is sometimes used to identify specifically the very Venetists who refuse the concept of Padania, a proposed state by Lega Nord, of which Liga Veneta (the most successful Venetist party so far) is the "national" section in Veneto. Alberto Gardin, a pro-independence publisher who supports the boycott of Italian elections, offers another interpretation by considering "Venetism" a "partisan concept, that is part of the Italian political system (Venetists, as Socialists, Communists, the PD or the PdL, etc.)".[9][10]

Background and history[edit]

Annexation of Veneto by Italy[edit]

The Venetian Republic existed for 1100 years from 697 to 1797 and was the one of the first modern republics of the world. After defeating the Republic of Genoa in a series of wars, it became the most powerful Mediterranean maritime power and, at its height, extended its rule from large parts of the Po Valley to the coastal regions and islands of present-day Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. Venice was a leading power of the Western world in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1797, after a long decline, through the Treaty of Campo Formio, Napoleon traded what remained to the Republic to Austria in exchange of other lands. In 1848 Venetians, led by Daniele Manin, rebelled against Austrian rule and established the Republic of San Marco. Manin, who opposed the proposed unification by some Venetians with the Kingdom of Sardinia, resigned but returned to lead again the opposition against Vienna in 1849.[11]

Venetia was annexed to Italy in 1866, five years after the Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy in 1861. The unification of Veneto with Italy was the result of the Austro-Prussian War, won by the Prussians, Italy's allies. In the Italian unification process, the conflict is known as Third War of Independence. Austria lost Venetia, ceded to Napoleon III of France, who in turn ceded it to Italy. Austria refused to give Venetia directly to Italy because the Austrians had crushed the Italians during the war, defeating the Italians on land during the Battle of Custoza (24 June) and on sea during the Battle of Lissa (20 July). Giuseppe Garibaldi's Hunters of the Alps had some success against the Austrians at the Battle of Bezzecca (21 July) but the Italian government ordered Garibaldi to withdraw when Prussia and Austria concluded an armistice. With the Peace of Prague (23 August), Austria agreed to the incorporation of Venetia in the Kingdom of Italy. The same point was repeated in the Treaty of Vienna (12 October), achieved through the mediation of France.[12] The Venetian territory was first ceded from Austria to France (under a treaty signed by General Karl Moering, on behalf of Franz Joseph I of Austria, and General Edmond Le Bœuf, on behalf of Napoleon III) as a compensation for French neutrality during the war. According to the treaty, France ceded Venetia to Italy "under the reservation of the consent of the people duly consulted". It is unclear whether there would have been another choice from becoming Italian, nor the treaty was more precise on how to consult the people. Venetia was already under Italian control after the French government renounced to it on 19 October.[13] This increases doubts on the real importance of the plebiscite and leading historians suggest that the referendum in Venetia was held under military pressure,[14] as a mere 0.01% of voters (69 out of more than 642,000 ballots) voted against the annexation and a mere 0.1% (567 ballots) was null, and that it was ultimately rigged.[3][4][15] Some historians, who investigated into the historical archive of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, also suggest that the referendum was a mere administrative affair to Italy, just to formalize the sovereignty on a territory already under its possession, and that no real choice nor free vote was granted to the local population.[16] The plebiscite could have been a mere demonstration[17] to gain legitimacy after the bad conduct of Italy during the war.

The Kingdom of Italy adopted Italian as official language. Venetians, similarly to several other regional communities, largely rejected that and continued to use their own Venetian language, often dubbed as dialect. Linguistic nationalism started soon to be part of Venetian culture and, during the last decades of the 19th century, there were also some revolts against Southern Italian bureaucrats. After its incorpotation to Italy, Venetia was so poor that millions of Venetians had to emigrate toward the Americas, especially Brazil and Argentina (nationalists claim that three millions left their homeland from 1870 and 1910), without losing their national heritage so that, even today, many Venetian descendants in Latin America, most notably in Rio Grande do Sul, speak Venetian as their mother tongue.[11]

World Wars and the Italian Republic[edit]

Right after World War I the economic and political situation in Veneto was critical, so that a former Prime Minister and native of Venice, Luigi Luzzatti wrote to Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando and told him there could be a "Venetian Ireland", in parallel to the simultaneous Irish War of Independence, while the prefect of Treviso signalled the risk that a separatist movement aimed at separating Veneto from Italy might flourish in the province of Treviso.[18][19][20]

Precursors of the present-day Venetist movement date back to before World War II and were both left- and right-wing. In 1920 a Venetian Socialist and Republican newspaper, La Riscossa, espoused the need for a "united elective governorate with autonomous and competent technical and administrative organs" as an alternative to the "central political rule"[21] Guido Bergamo, Republican deputy elected in Veneto, wrote that "the Venetian problem is so acute that from today on we will preach the rebellion of Venetians. Citizens, let's not pay taxes, not recognize the central government in Rome, chase away prefects, retain the money from direct taxes in Veneto".[18][19][20][22] Shortly after Italico Corradino Cappellotto, a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Italian People's Party, launched the first Venetist party forth of the 1921 general election: Lion of Saint Mark won 6.1% of the votes in the province of Treviso.[23][24]

After the takeover of Benito Mussolini, who, among other things, banned the teaching of Venetian language in schools, the rise of Fascism, the World War II and the birth of the Italian Republic, Venetist ideas lost ground, in an era in which the "myth of the indivisibility and the unity" of the country was strong even in Veneto.[24] However the campaign of Mussolini to eradicate regional languages was largely unsuccessful in the region,[11] which soon became a stronghold of the Christian Democracy party due to the leading role of the Catholic Church in the region.[25] In the 1948 general election Christian Democrats won 60.5% of the vote in Veneto.[26]

Since 1919 Venetia plus the newly annexed territories from Austria, which included Trentino and South Tyrol, were called the Three Venices (Tre Venezie, whereof Triveneto), meaning Venezia Euganea (the current Veneto plus large chunks of Friuli), Venezia Giulia (the eastern part of current Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Venezia Tridentina (Trentino and South Tyrol).[11] However, under the Constitution of Italy adopted in 1948, only Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia were granted of the status of special-statute autonomous region and the connected special privileges, mainly including fiscal autonomy. Hence, the proposals by some groups of unifying Veneto with the two regions cited above (or with Trentino alone)[27] or giving also Veneto an autonomous statute.

Comeback of Venetist ideas[edit]

For more details on Venetist electoral politics, see Liga Veneta and Elections in Veneto.

Venetist ideas made a comeback in the 1960s, when the Venetian Regionalist Autonomous Movement (MARV) campaigned for the institution of the ordinary regions (including Veneto), prefigured by the Italian Constitution.[24][28] The ordinary regions were finally instituted in 1970.

Since the 1970s Veneto experienced a dramatic economic boom thanks to a new production model based on small enterprises. The high burden of taxes and bureaucracy, associated with the increasing frustration with the inefficient and overstaffed Italian government in Rome, that continued to channel Northern taxes as massive development aid to the corrupt and backward Southern regions, was the key element, along with linguistic and historical claims, that led to the formation of Liga Veneta (LV) in January 1980.[11] The opening speech of the first congress of the party in December 1979 recited: "Today for Venetians the moment has come, after 113 years of Italian unitary colonization, to take their natural and human resources back, to fight against the wild exploitation that has brought emigration, pollution and rooting out from their culture". European integration was seen as an opportunity to give back to Veneto its autonomy.[23][29]

One of the regional leaders of Christian Democracy (DC), Antonio Bisaglia, early understood Veneto's demand of more autonomy and that his party, the dominant force in Venetian politics since 1946, would have been the main victim of the rise of LV as both parties competed for the support of the middle class. He thus proposed the evolution of DC into a regional party on the model of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria. In 1982 Bisaglia tellingly declared that "Veneto would be mature for a federalist state, but this state, centralist and bureucratic [as it is], will never concede autonomy to my region".[30] Opposition from Rome and Bisaglia's sudden death in 1984 stopped the plan of a regional DC on the "Bavarian model".[29][31] Giancarlo Galan, regional leader of Forza Italia and President of Veneto from 1995 to 2010, made a similar proposal in 2008, taking example mainly from the South Tyrolean People's Party,[32][33][34] but his "Forza Veneto" remained just an idea.

The LV, whose leader in the 1980s and early 1990s was Franco Rocchetta, made its main electoral debut in the 1983 general election, when it garnered 4.3% in Veneto, resulting in two elects to the Italian Parliament. The party suffered many splits in its first decade of life and became a large political force only after its federation with other regional leagues, notably including Umberto Bossi's Lega Lombarda, which resulted in Lega Nord (LN) in 1991: in the 1996 general election the party was Veneto's largest with 29.3%. However, clashes between Bossi and hardcore Venetists led to several splits: in 1994 Rocchetta left in protest, but more damaging was the 1998 split led by Fabrizio Comencini and Alessio Morosin, who launched Liga Veneta Repubblica (LVR). As a result, in the 2001 general election the LV garnered a mere 10.2% of the vote, its worst score since 1987, while the LVR gained 4.9%. As the latter faded, the LV returned to gain ground in the 2005 regional election, despite the meteoric success of North-East Project (PNE).[35] More recently, a string of separatist parties, notably including Venetian Independence (IV), emerged.

In the 2010 regional election the LV, in steady rise since 2001, was by far the largest party in the region with 35.2% of the vote, while its leader Luca Zaia was elected President of Veneto by a landslide 60.2%. The combined result of Venetist parties was 37.6%, the highest ever.[35]

Recent developments[edit]

2012–2014 opinion polls on independence[edit]

While support for a federal system, as opposed to a centrally administered state, receives widespread consensus in Veneto, support for independence is less favoured. Recent polls show a rise of independentism. According to an opinion poll made in December 2011, 50% of Venetians support the independence of Veneto.[36] More strikingly, an opinion poll published on Il Gazzettino in January 2012 put those favoring independence at 53.3% (with the support from foreign-born Venetians at 55.0%).[37][38] According to the same pollster, the support for independence rose to 56.7% in January 2013.[39][40]

According to a February 2014 poll by Ixè, in a hypotethical referendum on independence, 47% of Venetians would vote yes and 26% no.[41] According to a March 2014 poll by Ilvo Diamanti's Demos&Pi, 55% of Venetians favoured independence, 39% opposed it and the remaining 6% did not answer.[42][43] According to a similar poll conducted right after by Istituto Piepoli, in a referendum 64% of Venetians would vote in favour of more autonomy for Veneto with 19% against, and 51% would vote for independence with 32% against.[44] Other polling firms, including SWG, offered similar data. According to a Demos&Pi poll taken in October 2014, 53% of Venetians favoured independence, thus making Veneto the most separatist region in Italy, followed by Sardinia (45%) and Sicily (44%).[45][46]

Resolution 44/2012 on self-determination[edit]

In 2012 Venetian Independence (IV), notably including Lodovico Pizzati, Gianluca Busato and Alessio Morosin, collected more than 20,000 signatures in support for a referendum on independence and presented them to President Zaia.[47][48] Zaia informed the Regional Council and its President Clodovaldo Ruffato asked an opinion to the legal office,[49] which explained that such a referendum was not legal under the Constitution of Italy.[50] On 6 October IV organised a march in Venice, during which it proposed a resolution (44/2012) for a consultative referendum on independence to be approved by the Regional Council: the text of the resolution was given to Giovanni Furlanetto, LV regional councillor, who supported the proposition.[51][52][53] Another Council member, Mariangelo Foggiato of North-East Union (UNE), officially presented the resolution in the Council.[54][55] On 17 October a total of 42 regional councillors out of 60 officially asked a discussion on the issue.[56][57][58][59]

On 28 November the Council approved the resolution, in which "independence" was replaced by "self-determination", with 29 votes in favour, 2 against and 5 abstentions. Those in favour included Foggiato, LV's entire group, most councillors of The People of Freedom, Pietrangelo Pettenò of the Communist Refoundation Party, Diego Bottacin of Toward North and independent councillor Sandro Sandri, who had expounded the resolution at the start of the session, while the entire group of the Democratic Party left the floor in protest, but proclaimed their support for a special statute for Veneto. The document required Zaia and Ruffato to urgently open talks with the European Union and the United Nations in order to come up with a referendum proposal that will establish the will of the Venetian people on its self-determination. To achieve this goal, the two Presidents would have benefited from the help of a special commission of jurists.[60][61][62]

Petition to the EU and international support[edit]

On 10 January 2013 a delegation of IV submitted to the European Commission in Brussels a petition, signed by 50,000 European citizens, mainly Venetians, to endorse the referendum on self-determination.[63] The collection of signatures for the petition was also supported by Domà Nunch in Lombardy.[64][65] According to IV leaders, the European Union should support the referendum and guarantee its result.[66]

In March an appeal by international academics in support of resolution 44 was issued. The declaration, promoted by Marco Bassani, was signed by Frank Van Dun, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Donald Livingston, Ralph Raico, Xavier Sala-i-Martin, and Pascal Salin, along with Paolo Bernardini, Carlo Lottieri and Alessandro Vitale. According to the appeal, "the self-determination process" of Veneto "will be an important step toward a better Europe and men of goodwill have to do everything possible to ensure that the electoral process leading to the independence referendum takes place without tension and with respect for all the people involved".[67] In Lombardy Bassani, Lottieri and several intellectuals around L'Indipendenza newspaper formed the Lombard Committee for Resolution 44.[68][69]

Further steps toward a referendum[edit]

After a hunger strike by two members of IV, in March 2013 Zaia and Ruffato implemented the first step mandated by resolution 44 by appointing the special commission of jurists who would examine the referendum issue. The commission was composed of six experts, including IV's Luca Azzano Cantarutti.[70][71]

On 2 April Stefano Valdegamberi, floor leader of the Union of the Centre, who had abstained on Resolution 44 in November 2012, introduced a bill (342/2013) in order to call a referendum on independence by the end of the year.[72][73][74][75][76] By 7 June the bill was endorsed by more than 15 regional councillors, sufficient to convene a special session of the Council on the issue.[77][78] The Council discussed it on 30 July and 17 September, but in both cases no decision was taken.[79][80]

On 5 April Castellavazzo, Belluno (mayor: Franco Roccon, The People of Freedom) was the first municipality to pass a motion in support of bill 342.[81][82][83] Since then, more than 180 comuni (out of 581), led by mayors of different parties and representing about 1,800,000 Venetians (out of approximately 4,860,000), have expressed their support for it; they notably include Verona, Rovigo, Bassano del Grappa, Castelfranco Veneto, Vittorio Veneto, Arzignano, Legnago, Montebelluna, Jesolo, Montecchio Maggiore, Oderzo and Cittadella. Among provinces, Padua, Verona, Treviso and Venice, for a total of about 3,510,000 inhabitants, have endorsed the bill.[84][85]

In February 2014 Liga VenetaLega Nord launched its own campaign for a referendum on independence.[86][87]

On 10 June the Regional Council discussed and passed a law concerning a referendum on special autonomy for Veneto. On 12 June the same legislative assembly passed Valdegamberi's 342/2013 bill in order to hold a referendum on the independence of Veneto with 30 yeas, 12 nays and 3 abstentions.[88]

Online referendum on independence[edit]

Plebiscite 2013 (P2013), a non-partisan committee organised Plebiscito.eu, an online independence referendum, with no official recognition, for 16–21 March.[89][90][91] P2013 had been launched by a group of splinters from IV, led by Lodovico Pizzati and Gianluca Busato, in July 2013.

According to Plebiscito.eu's staff, 2.36 million Venetians (63.2% of all eligible voters) participated in the online referendum and 89.1% of them (that is to say 56.6% of all eligible voters) voted yes.[92][93] This was enough for P2013 to proclaim Veneto's independence from Italy in Treviso on the night of 21 March.[94][95][96][97] Voters approved also the adoption of the Euro (51.4% yes), European Union membership (55.7% yes) and NATO membership (64.5% yes).[92][93]

The event was covered by several international media. During an interview with foreign journalists on 19 March, President Zaia announced that he too had voted (yes) in the poll, promised that he would bring bill 342 again to the discussion of the Regional Council and explained that he would seek "total independence" for Veneto.[98][99][100]

People and movements[edit]

Prominent Venetists have included Goffredo Parise, Franco Rocchetta (founder of Liga Veneta), Ettore Beggiato (who wrote a book titled 1866: la grande truffa, meaning "1866: the great swindle"), Sabino Acquaviva (who perfaced the book by Beggiato), Gian Paolo Gobbo, Fabrizio Comencini, Alessio Morosin, Fabio Padovan, Giorgio Lago, Flaminio De Poli, Giampaolo Borsetto, Ivone Cacciavillani, Manuela Dal Lago, Luca Zaia, Flavio Tosi, Giorgio Vido, Giorgio Panto, Lodovico Pizzati, Antonio Guadagnini, Patrik Riondato, Loris Palmerini, and, to some extent, Giancarlo Galan, Massimo Cacciari and Mario Rigoni Stern.

In November 2009 the Corriere del Veneto, the regional edition of the Corriere della Sera in Veneto, published a broad overview of what it described as "Venetist galaxy". The newspaper counted around 20 notable Venetist organizations: along the four major Venetist parties of the time (Liga Veneta–Lega Nord, Liga Veneta Repubblica, North-East Project and Venetian National Party), a large variety of minor political parties, movements, cultural associations and trade unions were listed.[101]

A prominent Venetist cultural association is Raixe Venete (Venetian Roots), which organizes every year the well-known Festa dei Veneti[102] in Cittadella.[103][104] The association has strong links with separatists from all over Europe and especially from the Basque Country. At the Festa dei Veneti, Venetists of every political colour, politicians of different political parties (including non-Venetist, both right and left), Venetist associations, actors, comedians, flag-wavers, musicians (notably including Herman Medrano), rock bands, and many people meet at the beginning of September every year.[105] In November 2009 Raixe Venete organised a demonstration in Venice in support of the teaching of Venetian in schools: a wide range of people took part, from Roberto Ciambetti, leader of Liga Veneta–Lega Nord in the Regional Council of Veneto, to Luca Casarini, a former far-left anti-globalization activist and leader of the Tute Bianche in Veneto.[106]

The European Federalist Free Entrepreneurs (LIFE) was formed in 1994 by a group of Venetist entrepreneurs (Fabio Padovan, Diego Cancian, etc.) who opposed the "fiscal and bureaucratic oppression" of the "Venetian people" by Italy and demanded fiscal federalism and autonomy for the region. In particular, they decided to organize themselves as a trade union, saying that they were the most oppressed workers in Italy.[107]

Another notable association is Venetians Movement[108] and was founded in 2006 by Patrik Riondato. Initially it presented itself as a cross-party political movement which aimed to promote independence in a democratic and nonviolent way. However, in 2010 it took part to the founding of the Party of the Venetians, a coalition of Venetist parties ranging from the centre-right to the far-left, which was later merged into Veneto State.[109]

Among the youth, the strongest organization is Independentist Youth, whose most representative figures are Giacomo Mirto and Stefano Danieli.[110]

Other six leading although small groups are the self-proclaimed Venetian Most Serene Government (VSG), whose main leaders include Luigi Faccia and late Bepin Segato,[111] Self-Government of the Venetian People[112] led by Loris Palmerini,[113] Venetian State of Vittorio Selmo,[114] the Venetian National Liberation Movement (MLNV) led by Sergio Bortotto,[115] the Venetian National Government of Gabriele De Pieri,[116] and Self-Government of Venetia of Daniele Quaglia.[117]

On the cultural side, it is worth of mention the Milizia Veneta[118] (Venetian Militia), in practice a corp of people who perform historic representations of the Venetian army (including flag-raising at the Festa dei Veneti), Europa Veneta,[119] Par San Marco[120] and Veneti Eventi.[121]

The Venetist movement has also several publications, notably including Quaderni Veneti[122] and Rivista Veneti.[123]

In the midst of the above mentioned campaign for a referendum on independence, two non-party committees were launched: Plebiscite 2013 and Let Veneto Decide (later supplanted by United for Independent Veneto/We Independent Veneto).

Political parties[edit]

"We are a nation, Veneto is not Italy" - 2009 campaign for Venetian local elections

The first Venetist party in Veneto was Lion of Saint Mark, active from 1921 to 1924. It was succeeded by the Venetian Regionalist Autonomous Movement (MARV), a cultural-political association, which was active in the 1960s. The first organised Venetist parties were started only after the institution of Veneto as Region and the direct election of the Regional Council in 1970.

Some Venetian parties campaign for federal reform, others for autonomy or a special statute for Veneto, others for an autonomous North-East region including Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, some others for outright independence. Since the late 1970s many Venetist parties were founded in Veneto, covering all the ideologic spectrum:

Achievements[edit]

Venetian language and culture[edit]

UNESCO gives to Venetian the status of not endangered language,[127] as it is usually spoken in Veneto,[128][129] Trentino,[128][129] Friuli-Venezia Giulia (mainly in the provinces of Pordenone and Trieste),[128][129] Croatia (mainly in Istria),[130][131] Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina in Brazil, and Chipilo in Mexico.

In 2007 Veneto recognised Venetian as official language of the region, alongside Italian, instituted an official website for standard Venetian and proclaimed a yearly "Day of the Venetian People" (Festa del Popolo Veneto) on 25 March, anniversary of the foundation of Venice.[132][133] In 2011 the Regional Council officially requested to the Italian Parliament to protect Venetian as a minority language under Italian law.[134]

Soon after the 2010 regional election, Daniele Stival (LV), new regional minister for Venetian Identity, appointed a commission of experts which will fix the rules of standard Venetian language and the official Venetian names of all 581 municipalities of Veneto. The commissioners include: Davide Guiotto, president of Raixe Venete; Gianfranco Cavallin, writer and linguist close to Raixe Venete; Sabino Acquaviva, sociologist and avowed Venetist; Rodolfo Delmonte, linguist; Michele Brunelli, linguist; Lodovico Pizzati, economist and secretary of Veneto State (later of Venetian Independence).[135]

Statute of Veneto (1971 and 2011)[edit]

Most notably, the Statute of Veneto, first approved in 1971 and rewritten in 2011, cites the "Venetian people". In article 1 it proclaims Veneto as "an autonomous region" and in article 2 that "the self-government of the people of Veneto is implemented in forms corresponding to the features and the traditions of its history. The Region contributes to the enhancement of the linguistic and cultural heritage of its individual communities".[136]

Resolution 42/1998 on self-determination[edit]

In 1998 the Regional Council of Veneto approved resolution 42 concerning the "self-determination" of the "Venetian people". The resolution read: "The Venetian people [...] invokes its right to a democratic and direct referendum for the free expression of its right to self-determination".[137] In 2006 the Regional Council officially asked to reform the Constitution of Italy in order to allow Veneto to be an autonomous region like its neighbours Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.[138]

Controversies[edit]

St Mark's Campanile assault[edit]

Il Tanko, the improvised armoured vehicle with which the Serenissimi "assaulted" Piazza San Marco on 8 May 1997

During the night between 8 and 9 May 1997 a group of armed Venetist separatists, the so-called Serenissimi, "attacked" Piazza San Marco and the St Mark's Campanile in Venice in order to proclaim the "independence of Veneto". After eight hours barred in the Campanile, the Carabinieri entered and arrested the group.[139][140]

The members of the group, including the two leaders of the Venetian Most Serene Government (Veneto Serenissimo Governo), Luigi Faccia and Bepin Segato, who did not take part to the action itself, were all jailed, tried and sentenced to prison.[141][142] The effort, which was more symbolic than anything else, was criticised by Umberto Bossi and Roberto Maroni,[143] leaders of Lega Nord, at that time proponents of the independence of Padania, while it was praised by Gianfranco Miglio,[144] a former senator of the League who was then elected as an independent for the centre-right Pole of Freedoms.

The Serenissimi soon became a sort of "heroes" for many Venetists and the "tank",[145][146] the improvised armoured vehicle with which they reached Piazza San Marco on that night is usually an exhibit at the yearly Festa dei Veneti[147] and at other rallies of that kind, also outside Veneto.[148] Segato was a candidate of Liga Veneta Repubblica in the 2001 general election[149] and came short of election to the Italian Senate, having received 9.8% of the vote in the constituency of Schio.[150]

Representatives from most political parties in Veneto, including centre-left figures, defended the Serenissimi: Claudio Rizzato of the Democrats of the Left even praised the "noble ideals" of the group,[151] while Massimo Cacciari and Green Gianfranco Bettin campaigned for the pardon to those in jail, along with Liga Veneta and the regional section of Forza Italia.[152] Some of them are not embarrassed in taking part to a rally,[153][154] the Festa dei Veneti, in which the tanko is exposed. More recently also leading members of the League, including Bossi[155][156] and Roberto Calderoli,[157] praised them and another leghista, Roberto Castelli, when minister of Justice in 2003, proposed a pardon for Faccia,[158][159] who refused it.[160]

The MLNV and the "Venetian Police"[edit]

In November 2009 some members of the Venetian National Liberation Movement, who had proclaimed themselves "National Liberation Movement of the Venetian People", were prosecuted with the charge of having built a paramilitary organization. The Italian police seized arms and uniforms of the so-called Polisia Veneta (Venetian Police) led by Sergio Bortotto in the headquarters of the movement in Treviso. According to the police, the group had planned an aggression to Luca Zaia, a leading member of Liga VenetaLega Nord, during the Festa dei Veneti of 2009, because he would have betrayed Venetist ideals by accepting to become minister of Agriculture in Berlusconi IV Cabinet. However the attack did not take place also because Zaia failed to show up in Cittadella on that occasion.[161][162] The day after Zaia declared: "Maybe those people confuse Venetism with something different. Being a Venetist, for me, means defending our heritage, promoting the language and the literature of this region".[163]

Cancellation of the annexation of Veneto[edit]

On 8 February 2011, the Corriere del Veneto reported that the act by which the Kingdom of Italy annexed the remaining portion of the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia (including current Veneto, Friuli, and the province of Mantua) in 1866 was cancelled by a decree that came into force on 13 December 2010, most likely by government mistake.[164] It is unclear whether this will have any real and direct consequence, or will only be used by independentist groups to pursue a lawsuit in favour of an independent Venetian state (perhaps in front of the European Court of Justice) as previously done.[165]

The debate began a day later, with independentist and autonomist groups declaring that Veneto is no longer part of Italy. Political and juridical opinion are conflicted on whether Veneto still belongs to Italy or not, and a regional inquiry is due.[166][dated info] On the following day, ministerial staff explained that the annexation act was cancelled because it had already been superseded by the Constitution of Italy, which ensures national unity.[167] However, independentist groups were quick to point out not all legal opinions agree with this interpretation.[168]

In particular, the Treaty of Osimo, signed in 1975 by Italy and Yugoslavia, formally transferred the sovereignty of Italian "Zone-B" to Yugoslavia without any changes to the Constitution. This precedent show that the borders of the Italian Republic (hence the territory subject to the Italian Constitution) are established by means of international treaties, not the Constitution itself. Independentists have also argued that Italy can't determine its territorial extent in its own Constitution, as this would suggest it's legal for a state to unilaterally annex the territory of another state.[citation needed]

Garibaldi's effigy burning controversy[edit]

During the night between 28 February and 1 March 2011, during a Venetian New Year's Day bruxamarso (a party which traditionally includes the stake of the passing year), a group of Venetists put at stake a shape of Giuseppe Garibaldi, which had a banner around the neck reading "l'eroe degli immondi" ("the hero of the unclean"), instead of "l'eroe dei due mondi" ("the hero of the two worlds"). The party was organised by Raixe Venete, Independentist Youth, Bortolino Sartore (leader of Liga Veneto Autonomo) and Patrick Riondato (leader of the Venetians Movement and leading member of Veneto State) and was attended by members of many Venetist parties, including several local councillors of Liga Veneta.[169]

Luca Zaia, President of Veneto and leading member of Liga Veneta, while criticizing Garibaldi, dissociated from the act: "I love Veneto. I consider myself a Venetist, but burning a shape is a signal of which beware of" when "behind a shape there is a person".[170] Also Luca Schenato, then leading member of Veneto State and contributor of Press News Veneto, criticised the act by saying that it "reminded me other latitudes where it is common to burn puppets of political enemies of the flags of Israel and the United States": "I do not see any need for that because my message is not of hate or war. My message and my thought are joyful, proactive and forward-looking.[171] Raixe Venete, for its part, precised that it organised the party but not the burning itself.[172]

Alleged terrorist plot[edit]

On 2 April 2014 a group of separatists, notably including Luigi Faccia and Flavio Contin of the Venetian Most Serene Government, LIFE's president Lucio Chiavegato and Franco Rocchetta, were arrested for suspected crimes including criminal association for terrorism and subversion of the democratic order. According to prosecutors, the group, which benefited from the collaboration by Venetists from the province of Brescia and separatists from other regions (including a group of Sardinians and Roberto Bernardelli, leader of Padanian Union), were preparing a remake of 1997's assault to St Mark's Campanile in Venice and a violent pro-independence demonstration in the run-up of the European Parliament election. A scraper turned tank, which was allegedly to be deployed in Piazza San Marco, was confiscated by Carabinieri.[173][174][175][176]

In jail Faccia proclaimed himself "war prisoner" and answer to questions (as Contin, in house arrest, and Lovato), Chiavegato started a 17-day hunger strike,[177][178] while Rocchetta declared his innocence and pacifism.[179][180]

Many politicians, notably including President of Veneto Luca Zaia,[181] and intellectuals called for an immediate release of the detained Venetists. Lega Nord organised a demonstration in Verona,[182] Plebiscite 2013 compared Rocchetta to Nelson Mandela[183][184] and alike Venetists offered similar views. Also Clodovaldo Ruffato, President of the Regional Council, and Maurizio Sacconi, both of the New Centre-Right, expressed doubts on the investigation.[185] On the left-wing of the political spectrum, Massimo Cacciari, Gianfranco Bettin and Beppe Caccia wrote a plea and remarked Rocchetta's pacifism: "In all the occasions in which we confronted ourselves with him, his idea of independence was a whole with the European perspective and the recognition of the rights of citizenship founded on ius soli and residence. [...] He is a world away from 'secessionisms' and the politics of exlcusion and racist closedness. With him we shared initiatives in the Balkans aimed at intercultural and interreligious dialogue, in terms of total opposition to the savagery of war and ethnic cleansing. [...] For how we knew him, we feel we can exlude his involvement in 'terroristic or subversive' actvities [...]".[186] Also the network of the far-left social centres expressed their simpathy for Rocchetta, with whom they shared some initiatives in the late 1990s, and the other Venetists; Tommaso Cacciari, one of the leaders of the movement, said that "we are without hesitation on the side with who seeks autonomy and independence against a state which is able to respond to these demands only with the inquiries of the judiciary and Carabinieri" and talked about the "signals of a national sovereignty in crisis".[187]

On 18 April Rocchetta and Chiavegato were released from prison as the tribunal of Brescia did not uphold the accusations of criminal association for terrorism and subversion of the democratic order.[188][189] Most of the detained Venetists had been released earlier or were released right after, with the notable exceptions of Faccia and Contin, who refused to ask to be released.[190] On 25 April, Feast of Saint Mark and Liberation Day, the released prisoners were celebrated in Piazza San Marco.[191][192] The rally was not approved by police authorities and criticised by the leader of the Venetian section of the National association of the Italian Partisans.[193] Rocchetta, who wrote an letter to Corriere del Veneto to explain how the two anniversaries were not conflicting and that he was going to celebrate both,[194] was hugged also by T. Cacciari.[195]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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