‘Catalonia likely domino effect – up to 45 new counties in Europe’
Two major regions in the north of Italy, Lombardy, and Veneto, overwhelmingly voted on Sunday for greater autonomy. According to the leaders of the areas, more than 90 percent of the electorate voted “yes.”
Despite the fact the referendums were non-binding, the two regions may now request greater economic independence from Rome. Both Lombardy President Roberto Maroni and Luca Zaia are members of the Northern League and say that the north is subsidizing the southern regions. Veneto and Lombardy are two of Italy's economic powerhouses, accounting for about 30 percent of the country’s GDP.
RT: What kind of impact will these votes have on the country?
Marco Bassani: It’s going to be a great impact. It’s [taken] for granted that people from the north – that is from Lombardy and Veneto are really happy to subsidize the south. The amount of that subsidizing – is probably not well-known all over the world. In Lombardi it is €54 billion per year that leaves the region and goes somewhere else – anywhere: Rome, south – you name it.
Now €54 billion, such an amazing amount of money you don’t even realize that. [There’re] 10 million people in Lombardy, so that’s almost €6,000 per person that they have to pay for being in Italy. That might be cool to be Italians, but it is a bit expensive, right? Same thing for the Veneto people. In Veneto they are paying a bit less, but €20 billion grand total. So that makes it about €4,000 a year.
We are witnessing for the very first time people that go to the polls asking “Alright, negotiate on our behalf for more autonomy. We just want more autonomy; we want more of our money in our regions.” It never happened before. The Lombards were just fiscal slaves to the rest of the country. So were the Veneto people, Venetians, and they are for the first time saying: “No, we don’t like it.” It is going to be a big change – it is just going to put the issue of the north back into the political discussion.
RT: Do you think the recent independence vote in Catalonia is going to have some kind of effect on the mentality in Italy?
MB: That was clearly inspirational. I have to confess that I am all in favor of Catalan independence. I have friends over there, so I visited several times. And I met people from Veneto, other people from Lombardy, that were very motivated when they were to study how you build up a successful independence movement.
I think we’re witnessing the disintegration of this kind of European order. There will be a confederation in Europe clearly in like 10-15 years from now, but not based on the nation-states that we know. If Catalonia and Spain break apart, then a lot of things will happen. That will have definitely a domino effect with Veneto, Scotland and all sorts of other regions. There might be easily 35 to 45 new countries coming up.
You have to realize that nothing happened in Europe after the Berlin Wall. The fall of the Berlin Wall was for Eastern Europe, but in the West, nothing happened for 25 or 27 years now. So people are really waiting for that – waiting for a new order to develop coming from some sort of disintegration.
RT: How do you think European politicians will react to these moves by Lombardy and Veneto? Seems like they turned a blind eye to calls from Catalonia for help.
MB: What happened was terrible: all these people, old people that were going to the polls were beaten up by the [Civil Guard]... And the politicians didn’t say anything – not a single word. Actually - believe it or not - the bureaucracy, the “Eurocracy” over there, didn’t like it at all. They built up a narrative, which was based totally on democracy. When you see all these people that were beaten up while they were going to the polls, this kind of idea of democracy, is certainly very difficult to sell. So I think the European bureaucrats, that are there working on several things might in the end help to ease the tension between Spain and Catalonia much more than the politicians. The politicians are just waiting and waiting for Madrid to make the right moves and maybe sedate all the violence, sedate all the people, and so on, and try to solve the problem. All those problems would come up in France, in Germany, Italy, everywhere.