Lower House vote as Conte seeks to lift Russia sanctions

ROME – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrived at the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday to address the Lower House for a vote of confidence, whilst commentators warned that his maiden speech in parliament diverted from the path of European allies, propelling Italian ties to Russia, political sources said.

 Having outlined his “project to change Italy,” including a hard line on migration and a review of sanctions against Russia, Conte comfortably won a vote of confidence in the Senate on Tuesday, with 171 senators backing his inexperienced coalition government.

 The new Prime Minister’s pro-Moscow stance drew particular attention, labelled by Stefano Folli, political commentator for Italian newspaper La Repubblica, as an “opening towards Russia.”

 Conte called for post-Crimea conflict sanctions to be lifted, informing Senators that he would seek to convert Moscow into a strategic partner for Italy: “We'll be the advocates of an opening towards Russia, which has consolidated its international role in various geopolitical crises in recent years,” the Prime Minister said.

 “We'll be promoters of a revision of the system of sanctions, starting with those that risk crucifying Russian civilian society,” Conte added, whilst maintaining Italy’s commitment to NATO and to its “special ally” of the United States.

 The growing affiliation with the Kremlin is likely to be a recurring theme in this “non-ideological government, in line with the M5S,” as described by Goffredo De Marchis and Carmelo Lopapa in La Repubblica.

 His address immediately drew acclaim from Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking on his first international trip since re-election in March, who stressed that his government does “not want to destabilise Europe, which is our leading commercial partner.”

 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, however, was wary of sudden change in the European stance, reiterating the importance of economic sanctions and adding that he looked forward to working with the new Italian Prime Minster.

 In a comprehensive opening speech, commentators also noted that Conte often turned scalding criticism on its head to rework a call for diversity and positive change.

 The Prime Minister did not shy away from the populist tag associated with his unproven M5S-League alliance, instead embracing denunciations from his opposition.

 “The political parties that make up the government majority have been accused of being populist and anti-system,” Conte said. “If populism is the attitude of listening to people’s needs, then we lay a claim to it,” he continued.

 In the wake of Conte’s opening address, Italian stock markets took a tumble following days of recent recovery. The spread rose from 204 points to 240 whilst the Milan bourse closed 1.18% down from it's opening.

 Conte’s cabinet faces a confidence vote in the Lower House on Wednesday later on Wednesday.