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'Seborga principality' court blow

Ruling against tiny self-proclaimed state after 2 deaths

29 December, 18:08
'Seborga principality' court blow (ANSA) - Seborga, December 29 - The tiny, self-proclaimed principality of Seborga has suffered a further blow to its ambitions for independence, after a court ordered the eviction of its government from a local building. The rulers of the 'principality', a small village in the northern region of Liguria, have been told to return the rented building to its owner at the end of a long-running dispute over the tenancy contract.

The news comes after a month in which both Seborga's prince and the man tipped as his successor died. Giorgio Carbone, a former flower grower, was elected to the post by the 364 inhabitants of Seborga in 1963.

His death at the end of November after a long illness was followed two weeks later by that of Seborga's 'foreign minister', 61-year restaurant owner Walter Ferrari, who suffered a fatal heart attack.

But Seborga 'Secretary of State' Alberto Romano, who has assumed temporary leadership of the self-declared principality ahead of elections, said inhabitants were not daunted by the court's decision. ''We have already rented another building, a few dozen metres away,'' he said.

''Besides, the former building was run down and needed maintenance work''. Romano also recalled he had lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights, asking it to consider the principality's fight for independence. Seborga was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1079 until 1729, when it was acquired by Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont and King of Sardinia.

The Seborgans still have the luigino, which is accepted in the village shops and bars, as well as their own stamps and their own flag - a white cross on a blue background.

A sign at the entrance to the village reads 'Principality of Seborga'. Carbone, whose official title was His Tremendousness Giorgio I, boasted that Seborga was the oldest independent principality in Europe and made numerous attempts to obtain international recognition for his breakaway principality.

He claimed Seborga was not listed as a Savoy possession when Italy was united under the Savoy dynasty in 1861 and had therefore never been part of the modern Italian state.

But the people of Seborga continue to pay taxes to the Italian state and the village has a mayor, Franco Fogliarini, who like all other Italian mayors swears allegiance to the Republic.

He had taken a laissez-faire attitude towards the activity and proclamations of Carbone, partly because so many of the inhabitants seemed to be behind him. ''If it helps bring in tourists, then it's fine by me,'' Fogliarini said, adding that there might well be some truth in the historical claims.

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