Two regions in northern Italy will hold referendums Sunday on greater autonomy from the national government.
Lombardy and Veneto are two of Italy’s richest and most populous regions. Residents will vote on semi-autonomy that would give them greater control of finances and administration.
The votes come just three weeks after the region of Catalonia held a referendum on secession from Spain and it follows a number of votes across Europe in recent years.
Political party the Northern League has pushed for a federal Italy with greater autonomy for regions since its founding in 1991. Unlike the case in Catalonia, the push has more to do with financial reasons than cultural identity.
“The reasons for people wanting to be part of Friuli are varied: we have our own dialect, which originates from German, and culturally we feel closer to Friuli,” Manuel Piller Hoffer, the mayor of Sappada in Veneto, told the Guardian. “But the main one is economic: living next door to a semi-autonomous region, people see advantages that they don’t have. They see finances being controlled better, a better health service and sustainable investments being made – they see a better standard of living.”
The referendums are not binding. While Catalonia’s independence vote was ruled unconstitutional by courts, the Italian referendums are perfectly legal.