Italian senate refuses to back automatic renewal of anti-Russian sanctions

A general view of the Italian Senate is seen during a debate in Rome, Italy. © Remo Casilli
The Upper House of the Italian Parliament has adopted a resolution opposing the automatic renewal of anti-Russian sanctions. The text of the resolution, proposed by the opposition Northern League, was approved by a majority vote.

The resolution lists a set of recommendations to the Italian government on key issues that will be raised at the EU summit on June 28-29. Among other things it commits the government “to argue that the sanctions against Russia will not be renewed automatically,” according to the Italian Senate session records.

Drafted by the deputy head of the senate and national coordinator of the Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, the resolution also mentions migrants and refugees issue as well as the situation around the UK leaving the EU following a referendum.

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Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also raised his voice against the automatic renewal of the anti-Russian sanctions.

At the same time, the Senate did not approve a resolution proposed by Northern League Senator Paolo Tozzato, which took the issue a step further and urged the government to recognize Crimea as part of Russia and push for the lifting of sanctions. Its text closely resembled parts of the text of the resolution on anti-Russian sanctions adopted by the Italian regional parliament of Veneto in May, according to media reports.

It also gave “a positive assessment to the Renzi’s statements about the reviewing of the issue of [anti-Russian] sanctions” and stressed that agreements signed at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) strengthened relations between Russia and Italy.

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“Negative reaction to our suggestion from the government’s side has demonstrated the words Matteo Renzi said in St. Petersburg did not fit reality,” Tozzato told TASS after the vote on his resolution.

"The position of the Italian government regarding Russia is not resolute enough. Sanctions mean madness," he added, calling the approved resolution “not sufficient.”

The Northern League was not the only party in the Senate to propose a resolution on lifting anti-Russian sanctions. Earlier Monday, the Senate discussed and rejected two similar resolutions proposed by the 5-Star Movement (M5S) and Forza Italia, also major opposition parties.

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The Italian regions of Liguria and Lombardy are scheduled to vote on similar resolutions on June 29 and July 5, respectively. A council in Italy’s northeastern Veneto region adopted a resolution recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and urging the Italian government and the EU to lift anti-Russian sanctions on May 19.

Brussels still maintains that the restrictions will be lifted once the Minsk peace accords signed by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are implemented in full. The EU already agreed to prolong the sanctions for another six months on June 21. Now, this decision should be approved at the summit on June 28-29 by the leaders of the 28 EU member states.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the EU’s policy of sanctions as counterproductive. Speaking at the St Petersburg forum on June 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow could lift the counter-sanctions first, but the move must be followed by reciprocal steps from the EU. Russia is ready “to meet our European partners halfway,” he said, adding that “it certainly cannot be a one-way game."

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The EU has formally prolonged anti-Russian sanctions for another six months, but could review its position earlier, the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said during an interview to the Russia24 news channel on Monday. He mentioned the discussion on the EU foreign policy scheduled to October as an event that could offer the EU an opportunity to the issue of Russian sanctions earlier.

Chizhov stressed, however, that the issue of anti-Russian sanctions will not dominate the forthcoming EU summit due to the recent events that occurred within the EU itself, referring to Brexit.