Europe’s Next Big Independence Movement: Venice?

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March 24 2014 3:18 PM

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Country of the future?

Photo by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

Will the next place to jump on the bandwagon of Europe’s new springtime of nations be Venice?

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Italians in Venice and its surrounding region have voted in an online poll in favour of breaking away from the rest of the country and forming their own state.
Over two million residents of the Veneto region took part in the week-long survey, with 89 percent voting in favour of independence from Italy.
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It was an online poll organized by a pro-independence party, so it’s not legally binding, nor is it likely an accurate representation of pro-independence sentiment in the area. But it is a reminder that there are plenty more secessionist movements in Europe that are likely keeping an eye on what happens in Scotland and Catalonia this year … not to mention the current situation in Crimea.

Venice had a long history as an independent state, from the seventh century until its fall to Napoleon in 1797, and was once thought of as a major global economic power.

In their book Why Nations Fail, economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson use Venice’s long decline to bolster their thesis that societies that don’t allow for social mobility are doomed to failure.  

Meanwhile, a separatist group in Sardinia is pushing for the island to be transferred to Switzerland. These goals are probably a bit far-fetched, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Italy has existed in its current configuration for only about a century and a half. If we’re getting into redrawing European borders, who knows where we’ll stop?

In Venice’s case, there’s also the question of whether it will regain its independence before it sinks.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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