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According to him, even now Russia is ready to join the European Union as a full-fledged member. If that happened, the European Union could become a territory of peace and freedom from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Salvini told a news conference at TASS after a trip to Crimea.
He said Italy would lose €5 billion annually on its exports because of Western sanctions against Russia. Russia is a big market for Italy which it simply cannot afford to lose in conditions when many ordinary Italians can hardly make both ends meet, the European deputy went on to say.
Salvini said that prior to the news conference he met Italian businessmen and designers who were taking part in the 2014 Moscow International Furniture Show.
“Italy exports more than a billion euro worth of soft furniture and design products to Russia. All the businessmen are greatly concerned with the fact that the sanctions are hindering the operation of Russian banks thus blocking trade and economic relations. As a result, people in Italy are losing jobs,” Salvini stressed.The Northern League has already sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi urging him to lift the sanctions against Russia. "If assertions that Europe had imposed sanctions on Russia under the US pressure turn out to be true, Europe will show itself in a very unflattering light," he said.
“The United States is right when it defends its interests. But it also means that some officials in Brussels are simply fulfilling somebody else’s tasks without seeing the real picture,” the European deputy went on to say.
The Italian politician said that the EU was unlikely to lift its sanctions against Russia before the end of October.
"But this is our goal,” he added.
Salvini said that everything happening in Ukraine is against the interests of its people and is being done to suit the interests of those who stay far away from Ukraine or Europe.
The Northern League’s leader has been staying in Russia since last Friday as the head of a delegation in a sign of the party's opposition to Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. The Northern League was the only party to openly vote against the anti-Russian sanctions in Brussels. It came under harsh criticism in Italian media for its move.
“But that is not frightening us at all. On the contrary, we believe that we should develop relations not only between the states but also among political parties that think alike as well as among regional authorities who hold similar views on things,” Salvini said at a meeting with the leaders of the United Russia parliamentary faction at the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament.
The Italian politician spoke highly of the Russian-Italian friendship on the whole, about cultural contacts and close economic ties which the Northern League and the United Russia party were set to develop. He added the Northern League would like to develop relations with the United Russia party at all levels, including youth and sport exchanges.
State Duma Vice-Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev, who is the parliamentary majority leader at the Duma, said in turn that Russia appreciated the Northern League’s objective stance.
“We understand very well that it is not easy to do that in contemporary Europe,” the Russian deputy said.