A council in Italy’s northeastern Veneto region has adopted a resolution recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and urging the Italian government and the EU to lift anti-Russian sanctions imposed in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis.
The resolution was backed by 27 out of 51 local councilors, with only nine voting against it, Italy’s Corriere del Veneto newspaper reports.
The resolution, presented by councilors Stefano Valdegamberi and Luciano Sandona, urges the Italian government to condemn EU policy towards Crimea that violates the norms of the international law as well as subjects Crimea to “unfair discrimination” after the peninsula’s reunification with Russia.
The text calls on the Italian government to recognize the will of the Crimean people expressed during the 2014 referendum and to demand an immediate lifting of anti-Russian sanctions that “have [had a] serious [negative] impact on Veneto’s economy.”
It also justifies the recognition of Crimea’s current status by referring to Italy’s Constitution and international law, which enshrines the right to self-determination of peoples. The resolution criticizes the “double standards” used by the EU in its approach toward the situation in Crimea, as well as the inconsistency of the EU policy in the context of the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.
The resolution is not legally binding, but will still have a profound political effect, Sandona, a co-author of the document, told TASS.
“It constitutes an expression of the will of such a significant Italian region as Veneto. The Italian government should insist that sanctions should be immediately removed from Russia and economic ties should be restored in full,” Sandona said.
“Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is seeking to remove some powers from local authorities. The Northern League has always stood up for federalism and more independence for Veneto. The resolution should send a significant signal to the government,” he added.
Veneto’s president, Luca Zaia, a member of the Northern League opposition political party, has consistently called for lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia. A co-author of the resolution and a local councilor, Stefano Valdegamberi, attended an international economic forum in Crimea in mid-April.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Veneto’s resolution another sign showing that the policy of anti-Russian sanctions had ended in deadlock.
“Both the vote on the resolution in the regional council of Veneto, and other political processes such as public opinion polls and a referendum in the Netherlands – all this shows that the process of anti-Russian propaganda in the context of Ukraine has not only come to a dead end, it is also starting to rewind and work against those who launched it. This is just the beginning,” Zakharova told Izvestia newspaper in an interview on Wednesday.
On May 16, the head of the federal German state of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, who has also served as the president of the German Bundesrat since November 2015, told Die Weltthat economic sanctions against Russia should be lifted as soon as possible. The politician stressed that Russia is an important economic partner for both Germany and the EU and will remain such partner for a long time.
Tillich’s ideas were largely echoed by Garrelt Duin, the Economics Minister of another German region, North Rhine-Westphalia, who told Die Welt am Sonntag that at least a gradual easing of sanctions “should be possible.”
On April 28, the French National Assembly backed lifting sanctions on Russia after raising the issue in parliament. French MPs voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to lift the EU-imposed sanctions initially slapped on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification.
Economic sanctions were imposed against Russia by the US, the EU and their allies in Europe and worldwide in spring 2014 after a referendum, in which the citizens of Crimea voted for reunification with Russia.
In August 2014, Moscow retaliated by adopting a food embargo on goods originating from countries that joined the anti-Russian sanctions. Reciprocal economic attacks have already caused billions of euros of losses for all sides in the conflict.
“Our Italian observers discovered a completely different atmosphere: people are living normally, there is no tension, no ‘tanks in the streets,’ no police in sight, either …,” Giulietto Chiesa said. In particular, he noted, Crimeans asked why Italy continues with the anti-Russian sanctions, despite the fact that the popular opinion is clearly against it.
“The answer is simple: it’s because we are not free. We can not make decisions, despite the fact that, for example, 100% of Italian entrepreneurs are against the sanctions for the simple reason that they have already suffered serious losses. Just in the Veneto Region in the past six months, they’ve cost € 1.5 billion. This means that Italy is, in fact, paying, and for what? People are asking themselves the question: do US interests coincide with the interests of Italy and Europe? And many will answer, plain as day, ‘No, they don’t'” – said Giulietto Chiesa.
“…The interest of Europe is one thing, and the interests of the United States is another, but the pressure on Italy is very strong, multilateral, and permanent. There is a feeling that this is an abnormal situation, and not just in Italy. It’s the same — in Germany, France, Spain, Greece, all of Southern Europe, they are openly against this line, but there is another part of Europe. There is the United Kingdom, there are the Baltic republics, there is Poland, Romania, and so on. These countries – I would say a bit bluntly, but truthfully — are US protectorates. Though formally part of Europe, they, in fact, are thinking in the American spirit of confrontation” Giulietto Chiesa concluded.
He expressed dismay and displeasure at the fact that during their stay in the Crimea and Sevastopol, the delegation members were accused by Kiev of illegally crossing the border of Ukraine. Their names, as reported by Giulietto Chiesa, have been put on Kiev’s “terrorist” list, which he considers an insult.
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