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St. Petersburg: Will Italy Be Pace-Setter to Shift EU-Russia Relations?

June 17, 2016 (EIRNS)—This is the question raised by Italian media today, within a few hours of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s speech in St. Petersburg and his meeting with President Putin. La Repubblica remarks that in contrast to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who went to St. Petersburg and then shamelessly accused Moscow of not living up to the Minsk agreements, "everybody knows that the Minsk agreement should be also respected by Kiev, which so far has ignored them. Putin is asking that similar pressures be put on the Ukrainian government. Italy seems to agree on this. Other European countries are starting, more timidly, to think the same. And Putin smiles more now."

CNBC interviewed former Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, who complained about Juncker’s speech, "There is no glimpse of a positive addition, any positive direction of how we can overcome [differences]," he said. "That is not correct communication at all.."

Conversely, the organizer of the "Italia in Russia" pavilion at the SPIEF, Antonio Fallico, said in an interview that

"Italy has not isolated Russia despite the difficult period and international tensions. Italy ... has understood the opportunities offered by the import substitution policies decided by Moscow. The ’Made with Italy’ must be seen as the new pillar to strengthen bilateral relations," even if this involves a "different view of economic collaboration, which seems to have been already understood."

During the press conference with Putin, Renzi had critical remarks on extending sanctions, saying that this is not a routine issue, and therefore it deserves a discussion among the Europeans. "We do not need a new Cold War," Renzi said, adding that Italy disagrees with the U.S. government on Russia policy.

Italian and Russian representatives signed two memorandums of understanding, five agreements and two letters of intent.

The two MOUs were signed by Salini Impregilo (the firm that enlarged the Panama Canal) and Rosavtodor for road infrastructure, and between Pizzarotti and North Caucasus Development Corp., to build a medical complex.

The five agreements concern Mikro Kapital (General Invest) and Gorod Deneg, for a guarantee fund to ensure credit for start-ups; Tesmec-Rosseti to supply technology for management of electricity lines and for a center to develop and test electric technologies; Prysmian-Rosseti to develop the market of energy transmission in the cables and system segment, and Zamperla-Stavropol region for an amusement park.

The two letters of intent have to do with Codest, Tenova e Silarus (Titan Group) to create a silicon complex for production of high-quality metallized metal in the Sverdlovsk region; and Codest, Maire Tecnimont e Azot to build a complex for fertilizer production in the Kemerovo region in Western Siberia.

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