The regional council in the northern Italian region of Veneto approved a bill defining its population as a "minority." The move had already been dubbed "Venexit" and is widely seen as an additional step towards the region's independence from Rome.
The bill, passed Tuesday evening, labels those hailing from Veneto as a "national minority," meaning its natives could define their ethnicity as Venetian, La Repubblica reported.
It would also mean that the Venetian language - a separate tongue, despite often being referred to as a dialect of Italian - would be taught in schools and used in public institutions and on road signs. Public officials would have to pass an exam in Venetian in order to take office. Although the language was officially recognized by Veneto's regional council in 2007, it is not currently recognized by the Italian state.
The bill could also pave the way for Veneto's independence, with La Repubblica and other media already referring to the bill's passage as 'Venexit,' after Britain's historic Brexit referendum, in which the country voted to leave the European Union.
"For us it's important because we want to be considered as something different from the rest of the Italian people, because our region produces more and more and they give more resources, more and more resources to Italy and they receive less and less resources from the state," Stefano Valdegamberi, deputy of the regional parliament of Venice said.
"Our people have a very long history, very important history, identity, and they want it to be recognized," he added.
Many of those in favor of Venetian independence argue that the region is weighed down by Italy's national debt, and claim the vote would protect and revive the region's culture. They had referenced the German and Italian regions of South Tyrol and Trento, natives of which are protected under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
However, the movement faces many hurdles, largely because there are doubts over whether it is constitutional. One of those reasons is because there is no clear definition of what constitutes the Venetian language, as the label is applied to dozens of languages spoken in different parts of the region.
Local representatives from the Democratic Party have described the bill as a "humiliation" for Venetians, saying they cannot be defined as a minority.
Most of those who voted against the bill - which passed with 27 votes in favor, 16 votes against, and five abstentions - were from the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement. The majority of those in favor were from the Northern League party. It also received support from the Institute of the Venetian Language.
An unofficial online poll from 2014 showed that over 89 percent of Veneto's residents favored independence from the rest of the country. More than two million people took part in the survey, which had no legal power but aimed to gather support for a bill calling for a referendum.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team