The industrial heart of Italy is not only against the sanctions, but rejects EU policy on Crimea


Original headline:
“The regions in the fight against anti-russian sanctions, and the news is circulating in Russia
Moscow is aware that in Italy there are very different positions about the sanctions
Silvia Vittoria MISSOTTI
In Opinione Pubblica, July 6, 2016
Translated from Italian by Tom Winter

On June 5, the Lombardy Regional Council approved a resolution calling on the government to lift the sanctions against Russia and to recognize the Crimea as part of Russia, rejecting European Union policy. This event has attracted a positive response from the Russian press, especially since similar decisions had already been voted by the Regional Councils of Veneto and Liguria.

On this occasion, the Russian media have shown a good understanding of the political situation in Italy, given that some of them have been following Italian initiatives for the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and for the lifting of sanctions. 

One of these, the Izvestia newspaper, one of the most popular in the country and patriotic in mold, has been following the political processes in the regions of northern Italy in detail. On its pages appear quite often the names of the representatives of the Northern League, with which newspaper publications may seem in tune ideologically.

It is not the first time that the Russian newspaper has quoted deputies of the Northern League for the regions of northern Italy. Among these, Izvestia cites Congressman Paul Grimaldi for Lombardy: 
“Lombardy is the most economically prosperous region of Italy, and as a result has suffered more than the others from the trade embargo. The adoption of a resolution by the Lombardy Regional Council indicates a change in the political landscape in the country. It turns out that almost all of Italy’s industrial zone, located to the north, is against the official line of the government. Together with colleagues from the Veneto and Liguria, we intend to conduct a review of the resolution to the House of Representatives.”

Another popular Russian newspaper, RIA Novosti, interviewed Grimaldi and quotes him: “These absurd EU economic sanctions involve an embargo of groceries toward Moscow that costs us more than 3.5 billion euro in exports,” Grimaldi said to RIA Novosti. “The resolution was adopted, and we are very satisfied, because it is an important political step that once again highlights the absurdity of such measures,” 
added the deputy of the Northern League.

Judging by the publications of TASS, another Russian newspaper, Russia is aware of the existing approaches unlike in Italy on the issue of sanctions and the Crimea between the PD and the opposition parties Northern League and the Five Star Movement.

Once the results of the Lombardy Regional Council vote were announced, the Russian media began predicting the outcome of the vote in Tuscany, as did a well-known television channel, Russia Today. And again TASS: “If Tuscany, which traditionally belongs to the center-left which supports the government, were to vote against the sanctions, it would be an important signal for the ruling party.”

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Referring to the explanations received by the secretariat of TASS, the Northern League in Tuscany, in order to win the support of the majority, removed from the text the recognition of the status of Crimea and the veiled criticism of the government. The representatives of the Northern League, as reported by the newspaper, would plan on sticking to this strategy in other Italian regions in which they lack a majority in local councils.

RIA Novosti, quoting the head of the group of advisers of the Northern League in Tuscany, Manuel Vescovi, reports that these decisions about the text of the resolution were taken at the request of the PD councilors.

Russian media frequently cite the politicians of the Italian opposition parties and the losses suffered by the Italian economy because of the sanctions. All major publications have talked about the Farmers demonstration protesting against the sanctions, which took place June 30 in Verona. As reported by TASS, the action was organized by the National Association of Agricultural Producers Coldiretti, and the newspaper quotes the president Roberto Moncalvo: “Italy can not afford a trade war with Russia.”

Numerous publications of the leading Russian newspapers show that Russia is gaining popularity in the Northern League and the less well-known Five Star Movement. Another conclusion that can be drawn from the Russian press articles is that Rome, with its rational and balanced position on the issue of sanctions, opposes the inflexible position of Brussels. 

The Russian media announced that the official position of the government in Rome on sanctions has softened considerably. The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who attended the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, said that Rome is opposed to the automatic extension of the sanctions, and insists on the start of a political debate on this issue. 

Russian sources also report that, in the eyes of the country, though Italy as a whole does not reach  the level of the Northern League and the Five Star Movement in countering the anti-Russian policy in Brussels, Renzi’s position is a reasonable spur to negotiations.

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