Separatism, Italian-Style

ROME – Many separatist movements in Europe have resorted to various violent terrorist acts since the second half of the twentieth century. From the 1960’s onwards, bombs and death were the order of the day in regions like Northern Ireland, Corsica (France), South Tyrol (Italy), and the Basque country (Spain).

Indeed, the specter of violent separatism has reared its head again in Spain. The Basque terrorist organization ETA has ended its truce with the Spanish government, and, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its founding, placed bombs in the town of Burgos and on the island of Majorca. Fortunately, elsewhere in Europe, reason seems to prevail nowadays and the resort to violence has been curtailed.

But that does not mean the end of separatism. Italy, for example, is under constant threat of cultural and economic separatism, albeit in a peaceful way. Silvio Berlusconi's ally in government, the Lega Nord (Northern League), is continuously conjuring up schemes to embarrass the national government with threats to the concept of national unity.

The Lega Nord, led by the charismatic Umberto Bossi, holds the decisive votes in Parliament to keep the Berlusconi government afloat. It uses this power to blackmail the government into introducing measures which discriminate between citizens of Italy’s north and south.