The separatists in Crimea: why Italy voted for the lifting of sanctions against Russia

Regions against sanctions

On the morning of 6 July, the regional Council of the Italian region of Tuscany has adopted a resolution condemning the EU sanctions against Russia. The document calls on the Italian government to cancel imposed on Russia limitations and to recognize the results of Crimean referendum, the results of which the Peninsula became part of Russia.

As said in his Twitter account, the head of the right-wing separatist party “Northern League” in the Council of Tuscany Claudio Borghi, the resolution was adopted unanimously. Judging by the photos from the courtroom, 31 counselor (Deputy of the regional Council) voted in favour of the resolution with nine abstentions.

With the beginning of the year is the fourth such resolution of the regional councils of Italy and the third in the last week. Just the day before, on 5 July, a similar document was adopted by the Council of the Lombardy region, before 29 June against the anti-Russian sanctions by the deputies from Liguria, and on 18 may, the Council of the Veneto region.

The regional councils in Italy perform the functions of local legislative bodies. For half a century, the Italian federalism, the functions and powers of councils is constantly changing: for example, half of the regions the Council shall elect the head of the local Executive (the”area President”), and half — not. But the main function of tips — publication of laws relating directly to the problems of the region, and the proposal of the national Parliament to examine the bills directly related to the problems of the region. The resolution of advice binding legal power.

Red belt

Liguria and Lombardy are in the North-West of Italy, Veneto is in the North-East and Tuscany is generally considered to Central Italy. All these regions are United by the presence in the regional councils of the strongest factions of the “Northern League”. In the last election in Lombardy, the movement took first place, receiving 23% of votes and won 35% of the seats in the Council, in Veneto, the Northern League received 41% of the vote and 47% of the seats. In Tuscany the party in the last election came second with 16% of votes and 15% of the seats, and in Liguria got 20% of votes and 23% of the seats, which allowed her to enter into a ruling coalition with supporters of Silvio Berlusconi.

In all four cases, a resolution was introduced on behalf of the adviser, or otherwise associated with the “Northern League”. In Veneto they became Stefano Valdegamberi, a member of the supporters of the head of the region, Luke Jaya. He Jia since the beginning of 1990-ies is an activist of the “Northern League”. Valdegamberi the same three years ago I made a resolution on the organization of the referendum on independence of Veneto (whose capital is Venice).

In Liguria, a similar resolution was made by Alessandro Drunk, the head of the “Northern League” in the regional Council. In Lombardy the resolution was submitted on may 25, with the support of 11 MPs — all of them are of the “Northern League”. In Tuscany the resolution on the recognition of Russian Crimea, and the lifting of sanctions was proposed June 7, four advisers, each of which is at a fraction of the “Northern League”.

An old friend

Founded in 1991, the “Northern League” aims at the proclamation of independence of the industrialized North of Italy (Padania, from the name of the river Po) from the agrarian South. The full name of the party “Northern League for the independence of Padania”. The current party leader, Matteo Salvini heads to her less than three years, from December 2013. Almost all of this period was the cooling of relations between Russia and the West in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. As a critic of the European Union and a proponent of traditionalism, Salvini is using his mandate of the Deputy of the European Parliament to counter the European policy of sanctions against Russia.

According to the website VoteWatch, Salvini and his colleagues (fraction of the “Northern League” in the European Parliament is composed of five persons) has consistently voted against resolutions, or otherwise directed against Russia. In September 2014, the faction voted against the ratification of the Association agreement of Ukraine with the EU. Similarly, in June 2015, lawmakers from the Northern League refused to support the European Parliament resolution calling not to consider Moscow as a strategic partner of the EU. In February 2016 Salvini and his colleagues voted against the measure, condemning a situation with human rights in Crimea.

Previously, the Hungarian analyst Peter Kreko, Director, Political Capital Institute, explained that “the Northern League” — one of a dozen major European parties standing in the “Pro-Russian” positions. Their policy of Moscow is due to a rather General rejection of European integration, cooperation with the United States and a traditionalist world view, said the expert.

In the current convocation of the European Parliament, estimated Kreko, about 20% of MPs are anyway going against the “mainstream”, in line with Moscow. “Not enough to seriously affect the outcome of the vote, but it is enough to make discord in the ranks of European politicians”, — the expert added.

For the benefit of countrymen

As a member of the European Parliament Committee on foreign trade, ” in their speeches often mention the harm to mutual sanctions on the Italian economy and local producers. According to the FCS of Russia, in 2015 the trade turnover between Russia and Italy amounted to $30.6 bn, which is 37% below the level in 2014.

In March 2015, Salvini spoke at the opening ceremony of the conference “Russia and the Crimea — a great opportunity for Italian business in Milan. In the fall of 2014, he visited Moscow where he met with Chairman of the state Duma Sergei Naryshkin. According to Salvini, at the time (six months from the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis) the mutual sanctions have cost Italy €5 billion, half of this amount came in the industrialized regions of Veneto and Lombardy, where the “Northern League” has a majority in local councils.

In all cases, the negative consequences of mutual sanctions have become a major justification of the “anticyclonic” resolutions of the regional councils — both in the text of the document and in subsequent speeches. “The Council calls on the regional government together with the authorities of the country, the national Parliament and the European bodies to take steps to review relations between the EU and Russia in light of the irreparable damage to our economy,” reads the first resolution adopted by the Council of the Veneto region.

In the case of Tuscany, the adoption of the resolution could not depend only from supporters of Berlusconi and Salvini — almost two-thirds of the seats there is a center-left Democratic party, whose leader, Matteo Renzi, who now heads the government of Italy. In may, in Veneto the members of this party voted against “Pro-Russian” resolution, they now supported it. “We need upright to emphasize the feature of Tuscany as a region, always seeking to dialogue. Sure, we have to be aware of our limits and in our actions”, — explained the situation the Deputy of the Democratic party Francesco Gazzetti. In mid-June, Renzi is the only European leader met with Vladimir Putin at the economic forum in St. Petersburg.