Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni says he is open to talks on greater autonomy of Lombardy, Veneto

Rome: Italy's leader says the government is willing to open talks with representatives of two wealthy regions after voters there overwhelmingly passed referendums seeking greater autonomy from Rome.

File image of Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni. AP

File image of Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni. AP

Premier Paolo Gentiloni said "It's possible, it's probable" that certain services could work better if Lombardy and Veneto acquired greater powers from the central Italian government.

Regional leaders are seeking more autonomy over issues such as education, immigration, security and the environment, as well as retaining more tax revenue.

In his first comments since the twin votes on Sunday, Gentiloni said today in Veneto that the government was "ready to take steps," although he noted the specific issues and conditions up for discussion haven't been decided. And he stressed that Italy didn't need any new "social lacerations" after years of economic stagnation.

"I look with interest, respect and willingness to discuss the issue opened by the referendums on autonomy," he said.

Sunday's peaceful votes reflected the same drive for greater self-determination seen in Spain's conflict-ridden Catalonia region. While nonbinding, the Italian referendums were still approved by Italy's constitutional court.

But analysts say the broad autonomy that was sold to voters will be hard -- if not impossible -- to win and that it's unlikely any serious talks will begin until after Italy's general election next year.

Updated Date: Oct 25, 2017 10:55 AM

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