Extend anti-Russia sanctions? Not if Italy has its way

EU sanctions are a social, cultural, and economic absurdity


Thorsten Gutmann, writing in Ostexpert.de

Italy puts extension of Russia sanctions into question
The EU sanctions against Russia are hurting Italian business. This was stated by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday, according to the Moscow Times.

The Italian government puts extending European sanctions against Russia into question. They would “only hurt our companies,” said Prime Minister Conte shortly before an EU summit on Thursday in Brussels. Previously, Vice-Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said EU sanctions were a “social, cultural, and economic absurdity.”

According to the Italian Prime Minister, the EU should not count on sanctions, but rather on “determination coupled with dialogue.” Next week, Conte meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Matteo Salvini wants to abolish sanctions
Wednesday the Italian Interior Minister Salvini traveled to the Russian capital with a business delegation. He wanted to convince “all our partners” in Europe that the sanctions are not effective, said Salvini to the Russian news agency TASS.

Plans include a meeting with the Russian-based Italian lobby organization Confindustria, reports the news portal Bloomberg. According to his own statements, Salvini will meet “hundreds” of Italian entrepreneurs who are active in the Russian business despite all adversities. Unlike Conte, Salvini does not plan meetings with Russian politicians.

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In the past, Salvini has made several positive comments about Russia. Before the presidential election he wished Vladimir Putin good luck and called him “one of the best political leaders of our time”.

A coalition of the Five-Star Movement and the Lega Nord has been governing Italy since June. Both parties regularly criticize the European sanctions policy. Already before the election Salvini fought against the sanctions. Small companies in export-oriented northern Italy, some of which suffer from sanctions, are especially among its constituents. The interior minister has contradicted media reports, according to which the Lega Nord is supposed to be financially supported by Moscow.

Bilateral trade between Russia and Italy
In 2013, Italy exported goods worth about $ 12.5 billion to Russia. In 2016, the value plunged by 37% to 6.8 billion US dollars. In 2017, there was a slight increase to 8 billion US dollars. Imports from Russia fell by 39% last year compared to 2013.

Since 2014, several EU sanctions against Russia have been active. These include sanctions in the economic sector, which run until 31 January 2019. The sanctions include an arms embargo, an export prohibition on military dual-use goods, a reservation on the export of oil exploration and production assets, and restrictions on access to capital markets for Russian financial institutions.

In addition, there are personal EU sanctions against Russia and EU sanctions in connection with the internationally contested Crimea in 2014.

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