Italy wants to see the sanctions against Russia ending

by Daniele Pozzati

The next EU summit will take place on 23 June. It will be decided whether the sanctions against Russia, initially imposed in 2014, will be extended for another six months. However, the lifting of these sanctions is part of the Italian government coalition‘s programme. In his first speech to the Parliament on 5 June, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stated already that the new Italian government was planning to request a revision of the sanctions against Russia. The very next day, 6 June, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg dictated to the new Italian government: “We must maintain a political dialogue with Russia,” Stoltenberg said, “but the sanctions are necessary.”

Salvini: NATO should help in the Mediterranean instead of facing the non-existent threat in the East

On 7 June, a large reception was held at Villa Abamelek, the Roman residence of the Russian ambassador to Italy. Some 1000 VIPs attended, including the new Italian Foreign Minister, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior and Lega Nord party leader Matteo Salvini. According to the Italian newspaper “Il Giornale”, Salvini and the Russian ambassador had a 15-minute talk behind closed doors. Afterwards spoke Salvini with journalist Alessandra Benignetti and said: “We have a clear opinion on sanctions. We do not rule out an Italian veto.”
Salvini, however, also expects NATO to protect and help concerning problems coming from the South: Mass immigration, the instability of North Africa, the security of the Mediterranean. NATO should take care of all this, and not of a non-existent threat from the East, i.e. Russia.
On 8 June, the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Economic Development, Luigi Di Maio gave a statement. Asked by the Italian radio station Anch’io, Di Maio began diplomatically: “The Premier Conte will decide on a veto.” For the first time he sounds willing to compromise: “I have always said that our country must stay in NATO.”
But Di Maio added: “The sanctions against Russia are harming our farmers. Agriculture has suffered billions of losses. The design and craft sectors are also affected. We had exported a lot to this [Russian] market, and now this export is blocked due to Russian counter-sanctions.”

Finding the courage to say no

“We are pro-Italy, not pro-Russia,” Di Maio stressed. “Our government will participate in the international forums to discuss with its own allies some issues with which our government disagrees.” Di Maio makes it clear: “The Italian’Yes Sir’ era must end and begin a new era in which we are starting to say a few ‘no’.”
In the end, Salvini and Di Maio seem to agree on this important issue. Will it be enough to stand up against an opposition within the NATO?
 “Italy’s sole veto is unlikely,” says geopolitics expert Dr Daniele Scalea, “because our country is already under pressure in connection with other issues, such as immigration.”
However, the Italian government has a clear position against Russia’s sanctions, Dr Scalea notes, a position inherited from the previous government, with the difference that it maintained its anti-Putinist rhetoric. A rhetoric that Salvini rejects and against which Di Maio is apparently immune. It is therefore to be expected that this position will be implemented with more vigour and determination.

Austrian Council Presidency as an opportunity

Meanwhile Stoltenberg came to Rome on Monday, 11 June, for a first meeting with the new Italian Premier Conte. It was about the preparation of the next NATO summit, which will take place from 11 to 12 July in Brussels. And, of course, the Italian opposition against the Russian sanctions.
In the evening during the subsequent press conference, Conte did not even mention the word “sanctions” in relation to Russia. He spoke of “restrictive measures that have arisen, but which must not become an end, but a means; and also as a means, these measures must by no means humiliate Russian civil society and prevent exchanges between our civil societies”.
Irrespective of NATO’s pressure to adhere to the sanctions, the forthcoming Austrian EU Council Presidency, which will last from 1 July to 31 December 2018, could be the ideal background for a revision or lifting of sanctions against Russia. The government in Austria has already initiated its own policy of détente towards the Russian Federation. It was no coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin chose Vienna for his first trip abroad after his re-election. Putin now sees Austria and its new government as bridge-builders.
Even if Italy does not immediately veto the extension of sanctions against Russia at the forthcoming EU summit, Dr Scalea believes that “this government, which is taking its first steps, will certainly seek allies in the coming months to build a blockade that could support the end of sanctions”.    •

Source: RT Deutsch of 15 June 2018

(Translation Current Concerns)

Italy’s new government against free trade agreement CETA with Canada

cc. Italy’s new government opposes the EU-Canada free trade agreement, CETA. Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio told the newspaper “La Stampa” of 14 June 2018 that farmers in Italy were not sufficiently protected. According to the Minister, only “a small part” of the products is protected by the labels “protected geographical indication” and “protected designation of origin”. Therefore, the government would call on the parliament not to ratify CETA.
If Italy did not ratify the treaty, CETA could not enter into force. To do this, the parliaments of all EU countries would have to ratify the treaty with Canada.
CETA has been under criticism from the outset and has led to protests in many EU countries. Nevertheless, the relevant EU bodies signed the treaty in 2017. In principle, the EU institutions alone are responsible for the EU’s trade policy. However, since the treaty also impacts into national sovereignty, the consent of all member states is also required to bring it into force.

Source: afp of 14 June 2018

(Translation Current Concerns)

Protest against CETA ratification in Austria

cc. On 13 June 2018, the Austrian National Assembly voted in favour of ratification of the CETA trade pact between the EU and Canada. The non-party Vienna lawyer Dr Eva Maria Barki sent an open letter to all 183 members of the Austrian National Assembly on 23 May 2018 and once again referred to important arguments against the ratification of the CETA trade agreement between the EU and Canada: “Under the guise of ‘investment protection’, CETA is a political instrument for the implementation of transatlantic protectionism. The citizens affected throughout the EU will lose all legal protection.” Ms Barki added: “In addition to over 100 law professors from the EU area, the Deutsche Richterbund (German Association of Judges) and the Europäi­sche Richtervereinigung (European Association of Judges) have therefore called for the investment protection provisions in the CETA pact to be deleted. This should give groups special rights without imposing obligations on them. […] The state can therefore be held liable for lost profits of the corporations, even if the measures taken by the state are legal and have been taken to protect the population. The disadvantage must be borne by citizens who have no legal remedy against decisions of the Group Special Court [...] Such an enforcement of group rights instead of civil rights would completely undermine the existing Austrian legal system. Parliament is thus giving up its own competence!” The Initiative Heimat&Umwelt (IHU, Home & Environment Initiative) is now calling for a referendum on CETA.

Source: Initiative Heimat&Umwelt (IHU); www.heimat-und-umwelt.at

(Translation Current Concerns)