"Italy has for decades tried to delete Friuli"

Adriano Biason

Res Publica Furlane civil society group

- How are preparations for the non-binding referendum going? Is the voting system already available?

- We are working to be as strongly represented as possible in the territory, and we are seeking support from associations and pro-Friulian groups. The most important and most difficult thing is to let all Friulians know that this referendum will be done. We get on local TV stations and newspapers, but unfortunately major regional broadcasters are not covering our initiative. The online platform is ready and running, but it will not be open to the public until October.

- It is indeed in October when you expect to hold the vote. Is it going to be a one-day vote, or a longer one?

- The referendum will be launched on October 1st and will end on October 31st. There are two reasons for such a long time. First, we are a young movement, we are a little more than one year old, and we have not yet become established throughout the country. Second, we will need to carry out many checks in order to minimize the percentage of fake votes, which we will try to keep below 2%. It could be asked why we are in such a hurry, why we are not waiting till we gather more people with us, better organized and established throughout the territory. But the answer is that we have the necessary organizational time and, further, the opportunity is unique, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime, in view of the events in Ukraine and Crimea, in view of the referendums in Scotland, Catalonia and Veneto.

- Do you plan to have traditional, physical ballots on the streets?

- The referendum will be held online. People will be able to vote at home, but street stands will also be placed in October. In order to vote, people will need a code that will be available online through a univocal identification procedure or, failing that, through certificators who will be distributing codes and certifying the identity of individuals. Whoever will not be able to use internet will have an opportunity to vote thanks to certificators. In order to ensure the secrecy of the vote, biunivocal correspondence between code and voting will not exist.

- Who is supporting your action: political parties (have you talked to Friulian Front, for instance?), civil society organizations...?

- We are seeking support from associations, committees and webcommunities, and many of them are supporting us. From the beginning we have been open to them, and we have invited everyone to participate in our project, but unfortunately each one of the Friulian pro-independence or pro-autonomy parties just thinks in its small garden: courage or desire to do something great is lacking from them, those parties have little confidence in the people. To this, disaffection towards digital technologies must be added

Unlike them, we are not afraid to test ourselves, and we do not underestimate the Friulian people: on the contrary, we are very confident in the people, and in addition, we make extensive use of digital tools. The Friulian Front currently seems to be divided: we know that its bases approve our referendum, but party leaders seem to be skeptical. Perhaps they are surprised by our fast growth, which we believe that can be explained because, unlike them, we are really doing something for independence. And Friulians are positively responding to our call. Other parties, such as the Northern League, may be favorable to our proposal, but we do not care because we are non-partisans and we do not want to be sponsored by any Italian political party.

- What are you seeking from a non-binding, online, unofficial referendum? Do you think your action might move politicians to change the status of Friuli?

- Italy has for decades tried to delete Friuli, and the current governor [Friuli-Venezia Giulia President] Debora Serracchiani is doing everything to take regional autonomy away from us. We do not believe our action might convince Italian politicians to change the status of Friuli, and furthermore there is no possibility of obtaining independence under Italian law. We therefore believe that a path outside the Italian institutions will be required, and we also believe that this [the referendum] could be the start of an international path, in which the United Nations will be our main interlocutor. We will need to show the UN that we have the ability to become a state. This non-binding referendum will also be used to choose a small Parliament, which will need to prove that it can do something really useful for Friulians. The popular referendum and the Parliament elections will take place not only this October, but every year. Hopefully, if [this new] Friulian Parliament managed to be truly useful, if the Friulian people, after a few years, preferred to vote for the Friulian Parliament elections and stopped participating in Italian elections, then maybe politics could change.

- Will the referendum be held throughout the entire Friuli-Venezia Giulia region -which also includes the territory of Trieste, which does not belong to historical Friuli?

- Friuli and Friuli-Venezia Giulia are two different things. The referendum will only be held in the territories that belong to the historical boundaries of Friuli, and the province of Trieste will therefore remain excluded from the vote. Conversely, people in the municipality of Sappada and the territory of Portogruaro will be able to vote, because they have always been part of Friuli, even though they now belong to the Veneto region.


The reasoning for the vote: survival of Friuli as a distinct country

Res Publica Furlane launched in March the campaign for the online referendum. A group leaflet argues that Friuli needs self-determination in order to save its own language -which many in Friuli are no longer able to speak- and to regain a Friulian state that has been "taken away" by Italy: "We need to become independent because within a few decades Friuli could be erased from the map or could be merely left as a geographical designation."

The organization says the Friulian people should take on board its right to self-determination, which is internationally recognized by the UN and accepted by all member states including Italy. The Italian state, through its "law 881 of 1977 assumed this right and pledged not to interfere with peoples who want to make use of it," the flier argues.

Province of Udine President Pietro Fontanini (Northern League) was speaking last March about the referendum initiative. Referring to similar moves that have been launched in neighbouring Veneto and South Tyrol, Fontanini said that "this independence breath of a sort yet to be discovered is now being heralded in Friuli," and complained that Italy has not "even moved a muscle to avert split scenarios."

The province of Udine encompasses most of the historical Friulian territory.

Fontanini further said that "a self-managed referendum" was needed in order to know which is the Friulian people's "actual independence will." Such a move, Udine President argued, could be the start of a path "toward independence, following the Catalan model." Fontanini also recalled that an internet poll is perfectly legal. He also vowed support for the non-binding referendum from the provincial institutions.