The Italian Northern League party is advocating secession and independence from Italy, again. The separatist movement has realised its power and authority to influence federalism – a process supposed to give Italian northern regions a wider autonomy from the central state – has vanished with the fall of the Berlusconi government.
Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League, and of his most loyal colleagues, such as Umberto Calderoli and Roberto Maroni, in fact two former Ministers of the last Berlusconi government, are taking steps towards independence from Italy, i.e. what they say is the clear and final objective of the movement.
Should the situation be as Bossi and Calderoli depict, one may consider being moderately concerned and uneasiness would spread around. As a matter of fact, instead, no particular attention has been devoted to these aspirations or speeches apart from traditional media coverage. This is for several reasons, some of which I will try to explain later.
Meanwhile, there are significant differences that should be highlighted between this separatists and those who had independentist aspirations elsewhere in the past, the Basque Countries, Kurdistan, Tibet, Catalonia, the British colonies in the United States, and Kosovo being some examples among many others.
In many of these countries, separation from the Motherland was considered necessary as heavy taxes were imposed on colonies or – on the contrary – the dissolution of former empires led to parting ethnically omogeneous regions and assigning them to newly formed nations, as in the case of Kurdistan, Kashmir, and Kosovo. The polulations living in these areas became citizens of different nationality, whose respective governments were often engaged in territorial disputes, as in the case of India vs. Pakistan and Serbia vs. Albania.
Or indipendence was the legitimate aspiration of populations that had lived on the same territory for centuries and had their own autonomy, or even indipendence and sovreignity, before being (re-)conquered and put under someone else’s rule, as the population of Tibet knows well. Independence, however, is also the result of a process based on the alleged superiority of one race over another, as in the case of the Basque Countries, or of the cultural and linguistic differences one population (the Catalans) says it has with respect to others (the rest of Spain).
First and foremost, the leaders and supporters of the Northern League have shown little knowledge of history and culture on several occasions. In this sense, the idea of being culturally different from others is indeed true. They forget, for example, that Italy is made of different ethnicities, whose differences are so strong to be almost surprising in some cases. People from Sardinia have nothing to do with those living in regions like Apulia or Sicily, or Tuscany. These differences have led to wars in the past, just as it happened in the history of unification of several other nations in and outside Europe. So far, nothing strange, especially because this resulted in a unified country much later, where divisions where preserved but no longer represented a problem. Perhaps there is a bitter taste in knowing – if known – that many of the thinkers and philosophers who inspired the Risorgimento were from the South, the same part of Italy the kingdom of the Savoia dinasty, whose hometown is Turin, has practically plandered after unification.
Another point the Northern League raises has to do with development. It is impossible that businesses may even be established in the South, they say, because of mafia and other forms of organised crime, which only allow the enterprises they control to have a place on the market. To a certain extent, this is true. If you try to establish your own business in the south, in most cases you have to pay for your “protection” or challenge the mob. The reason for that, however, is that mob-like organisations prefer developing business in the north of the countrys for two reasons. Firstly, new assets and resources have been allocated in recent years to address this phenomenon and results in the fight against organised crime are indeed encouraging. Secondly, northern regions are closer to continental Europe and the yields from corruption of private managers and state officials are far higher and require much less efforts. Organised crime has had an interest in global finance since the ’80s, and it never stopped ever since.
Being an independent region and preventing criminal infiltration at the same time is a wishful thinking, just as it is the idea of creating boundaries to cut Italy in two, or to establish differences that do not exist. Just to give a taste of how serious Bossi’s words are aonsidered, a funny sign was also shown outside the venue where Bossi and his fellowmen gathered two days ago saying “Padania = Ducksburg”. In order to avoid other fictional stories, the Norther League leaders should stop behaving as cartoon characters and show respect towards their own nation, as well as take stance against the current real enemies of Italy: their parlamentarians, who oppose the much needed structural reforms, and the international speculators and investors, who look very much forward to driving Italy into default and out of the Eurozone.