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Italy and Russia: An evolving privileged relationship?

President Putin and his delegation arrived in Rome earlier this week for a high-level bilateral consultation, a mechanism that was launched back in 2002. This year 11 ministers arrived and signed 35 agreements in 5 hours. Putin met with President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, former prime minster Romano Prodi and Pope Francis. He even had dinner with his old friend Silvio Berlusconi. It was sober reminder of the close relationship between Italy and Russia.

In Trieste, Italy and Russia signed an impressive number of 28 trade agreements and 7 intergovernmental deals. The agreements cover areas such as finance, energy, industry, research, employment and social policies. Russia’s state-backed private equity investment fund and Italy’s strategic state investment fund have agreed a deal to invest up to €1 billion in companies and

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Enrico Letta’s victory

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Enrico Letta and his government passed a vote of confidence with a large majority both in the Senate and in the Lower House. The resignation of ministers from the centre-right Peoples’ of Freedom Party (PDL) on 29 September upon the request of their leader Silvio Berlusconi prompted the confidence test, shaking the government coalition. Though the prime minister rejected the resignations, they sparked a political crisis paving the way for renewed instability.
 
The official reason for the resignations was the PDL’s opposition to any kind of tax upsurge, as they deemed a further 1 percent VAT (taking it to 22 percent) increase unbearable. But it’s no secret that Berlusconi asked “his” ministers to resign just a few days ahead of a Senate vote to ban him from holding any public office as a consequence of his tax-fraud conviction.

Strong economic

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Germany votes: what does Italy think?

In the third blog post in this series, we ask what Italians think about the German election. 

As elsewhere, Italians are waiting for Germany to vote with a keen sense of anticipation. But they are not waiting so much for the results and the unveiling of a victorious coalition of whatever make up, as they are waiting for the dictates of the election campaign to end and Berlin to apply itself to key European issues. September 22nd is seen as an excuse for Germany’s politicians to avoid discussing or acting on difficult issues.

Italy’s current government is investing a lot of time and energy in its European links, and on several occasions has called for moves towards banking, fiscal, economic, and political union. Germany is acknowledged as the key partner in these matters – both to show accountability for the tough economic and financial commitments that have been made, and because

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Navalny: playing with fire in Moscow

Once again, I happened to be in the right place at the wrong time – this time exactly two weeks too early. It was the 4th of July, and I was meeting with a colleague on Manezh Square in Moscow. We sat on a bench overlooking Tverskaya street, watching the setting sun and the unusually relaxed city traffic. It was a warm and lazy evening, with tired tourists walking to and from Red Square, children playing in fountains, and young people sipping beers in the shade of the trees in Alexander garden. Everything was calm and slightly sleepy; one could not feel a trace of the passions that had filled the streets of Moscow during the political season of the last two years.

Earlier that day, I met with a young university professor who came to pick me up in a car adorned with a white ribbon – the symbol of previous protests - and a sticker that announced the United Russia party to be “a

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Rome view: getting our own house in order

Welcome in Europe, Croatia! This week a new country joined the EU, and I hope others will follow - including Turkey. To join the EU, these countries will have to undergo complex accession negotiations. Europe requires the highest standards on many issues, and rightly so. But once you are in, who takes control? Who monitors that all the tough requirements are not only on papers but also implemented? 

On human rights, where Europe is considered a champion and whose protection and promotion is a pre-requisite for accession, Member States have demonstrated that sometimes they take a break from their promises. Look at Hungary, or Sarkozy and the Roma case.

You could also look at the long situation of (in)justice in my own country, Italy: last week, while the United Nations celebrated the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Italian Council of Ministers passed a

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