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18 May, 2018 10:43

Drop Russia sanctions immediately, Italy’s M5S & Lega Nord urge in landmark govt pact

Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Lega Nord parties have called for an immediate lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia. The coalition also introduced other proposals likely to send tremors across the EU.

A landmark government program published by the Five Star Movement (M5S) and its right-wing coalition ally Lega Nord says dropping the Russia sanctions would provide an opening for Moscow to be involved in solving regional crises gripping the Middle East. 

While calling the US a “privileged ally,” the document pledges re-engagement with Russia that “should not be perceived as a threat but as an economic and business partner.” Therefore, the pact says, “it is appropriate to put an immediate stop to the sanctions imposed on Russia so it can resume its role of strategic mediator to solve regional crises (in Syria, Libya, Yemen).”

Going further, the coalition calls Russia “a potential partner for NATO and for the EU,” and underlines that there are other, more acute threats emerging at Europe’s “southern front,” namely “Islamic extremism, uncontrolled migration, and consequent tensions that arise between regional powers.”

Therefore, Italy, whose foreign policy will be centered around national interests, “should deepen its cooperation with other countries committed to counter terrorism,” the program asserts.

Russia sanctions aside, the pact calls for a revision of existing EU rules on immigration and refugees. It demands an “obligatory and automatic” distribution of asylum seekers throughout the entire 28-member bloc, instead of requiring them to stay in the country where they first enter Europe.

The M5S and Lega Nord also call for a “serious and efficient” deportation policy, suggesting that more detention centers could be opened. Financing of mosques and other religious installations should be transparent, and Islamic prayers should be conducted in Italian, according to the proposals.

Placing emphasis on solving domestic problems, the program pledges billions of euro in tax cuts, and promises additional spending on welfare for the poor, as well as including a U-turn on controversial pension reforms. However, the final accord dropped a proposal that sought radical change to EU fiscal rules.

Collectively, M5S and Lega Nord won the majority of the vote in nationwide elections on March 4. The success of the Euroskeptic Five Star Movement came mainly from the south of Italy, which some observers say can be explained by the uneven distribution of wealth across the country. Lega Nord had already governed two of the richest regions in Italy, Lombardy and Veneto, and apparently came to prominence due to its tough stance on immigration and EU bureaucracy.

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