Italian ex-FM: Sanctions affecting EU much more than expected, not impacting US at all

Italian ex-FM: Sanctions affecting EU much more than expected, not impacting US at all
Italian politician Franco Frattini has hit out at sanctions implemented against Russia, saying they are counterproductive. He also says Russian loans to Ukraine are much bigger than the amount of money the EU is prepared to offer Kiev.

RT:Speaking about the sanctions in general, many experts are saying just Russia will suffer. Do you agree with this?

Franco Frattini: Coming from a country like Italy, which is heavily affected economically from counter-sanctions imposed by the Russian Federation, there are many sectors that have been affected. I will mention just one: agriculture. Agriculture in Italy is one of the keys for Italian growth, and of course agricultural products are banned because of the counter-sanctions. Of course sanctions are affecting Russia’s economy, but they are also affecting the European economy. I think these sanctions are affecting Europe much more as a whole than was expected, and the others on the other side of the Atlantic are not affected at all.

RT:The latest figures say the Italian economy could lose €4 billion in two years due to the sanctions against Russia.

FF: I have no data and figures at the moment, but be sure many entrepreneurs and businesses would really like to rethink this policy of sanctions. And what the Italian Prime Minister and Italian president tried to do in Milan a month and a half ago in a meeting with President Putin and President Poroshenko was to find a way to rethink this policy of sanctions.

RT:Many European countries are suffering economically. Can we expect them to unite against sanctions directed at Russia?

FF: The Euro-Atlantic loyalty has prevailed. You know to get a decision in Europe, you need unanimity at a foreign policy level. Today I do not see a unanimity in reviewing the existing sanctions, but I think sooner or later we will have to find a way to review these sanctions because at the moment they are affecting Europe’s growth and ability to create jobs. How can you increase jobs and increase growth by decreasing trade with Russia?

People stand by the remains of a shed after shelling, allegedly bythe Ukrainian army in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on November 27, 2014. (AFP Photo / Eric Feferberg)

RT:Can the EU afford to prolong sanctions against Russia after they expire?

FF: I remember Romano Prodi saying that Europe is committing suicide by imposing sanctions, which he said publicly. I saw that the new Italian foreign minister, Mr. Gentiloni, said that Russia still has to be considered as a strategic partner and Prime Minister Renzi [said the same]. In Italy we see this kind of perspective, about restoring as soon as possible the strategic partnership with Russia.

RT:If things do not change regarding Ukraine, do you think sanctions can be lifted?

FF: The implementation of the Minsk agreement is very important for me and as far as I understand, both President Putin and President Poroshenko are saying they want to fully implement the Minsk agreement. Now it is up to Europe to keep their promises and we have been saying that if the Minsk agreement is fulfilled, then we will rethink the sanctions. My concern is that Russia could turn to the East by strengthening their cooperation with China and playing a greater role in Asia and deciding that Europe is irrelevant. This is my concern and yet another argument to say that this policy is against European interests.

RT:If the current situation worsens, what can we expect?

FF: We could not even think about a military solution. This is unthinkable. In the case of the prolongation of this economic kind of war, there will be serious consequences, first of all for Ukraine. All those who want to defend and protect Ukraine have to take into consideration that the amount of money given to Ukraine in loans by Russian banks is much, much bigger than the amount of money Europe is ready to give Ukraine. What about energy? Russia is the only supplier of gas to Ukraine. Do we want Ukraine to be without energy, without gas? Let’s think about the consequences for the country that many people want to protect – and that I want to protect and I want to defend.