MILAN (AP) — Referendums that seek greater autonomy for two of Italy's most prosperous regions have the potential to join the Brexit campaign and the Catalonia independence vote in changing the face of Europe, Lombardy president Roberto Maroni said Friday.
Speaking to reporters, he stressed that the goal is not to secede from Rome.
Voters in the Northern League-governed regions of Lombardy and Veneto will decide Oct. 22 if they want their presidents to claim powers from Rome, as already granted in varying measures to five other Italian regions. The referendums will come shortly after voters in the Spanish region of Catalonia are to decide on independence from Spain and as Britain negotiates its exit from the European Union.
Maroni said one of his primary aims is to retain half of the 54 billion euros ($64 billion) in tax revenue from Lombardy that goes to Rome each year, something that could be achieved with a change of law. But the former interior minister also wants control over security and migration, which would require harder-to-win constitutional changes.
"My ambition is to create in Lombardy a model of excellence, security and control of the territory," Maroni said. "It is a very ambitious project. But it is not that I just want some additional competencies. I want to change history, and this referendum gives me the possibility."
While the Italy votes are non-binding, Maroni said he and Veneto president Luca Zaia will travel to Rome the next day to begin talks with Premier Paolo Gentiloni, with their demands corresponding to the strength of the vote.
"I hope that the government will be willing (to negotiate), because it would not be against the governors, but against the people," Maroni said.
He said he wants to use any popular impulse demonstrated in the vote to seek greater regionalization within the European Union while respecting national borders. He cited a pan-Alpine region established last year that gives the mountainous area across seven nations the power to negotiate directly with Brussels on limited topics and seek direct financing for projects.
"I am not against Europe. I am for a different Europe. What we call Europe of the people, or Europe of regions," Maroni said. "I think that the push that will come from our referendum, from Brexit and from Catalonia, all go in that direction."