The Italian government blocked European Union attempts Wednesday to extend sanctions against Russia, calling on the 28-country bloc to discuss the matter in full first. The EU envoy had hoped to pass the economic sanctions, which were imposed on Moscow last year over its involvement in Ukraine, without delay after an informal agreement between all EU members was allegedly passed last month during the G20 meeting in Turkey.
However, Italian diplomats were unhappy that an extension of the sanctions was set to be passed without any formal discussions Wednesday during a meeting in Brussels, according to a Reuters report.
"We think it is an important subject and deserves at least a quick exchange of views -- even if there is no disagreement on the substance," Tiziana d'Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Italian mission to the EU, said.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) December 9, 2015
Initial economic and freedom-of-movement sanctions against Russian individuals were imposed after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014. After it became clear that Russia was also involved in the Ukrainian war that started in April 2014, the sanctions were extended and increased to target Russia’s energy, defense and banking sectors.
Italian diplomats, who deny coming to an agreement in Turkey on the sanctions, said that the renewal could be passed Thursday after a short discussion on the issue or during a meeting of foreign ministers Dec. 14 in Brussels. Another possibility to pass the legislation would be during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels Dec. 17-18. The sanctions against Russia officially expire at the end of January.
While Italy is likely to pass the extension at some point, there are fears that any delay could reopen old wounds about how the EU deals with Russia. Countries with a closer relationship with Russia, such as Cyprus, Italy and Hungary, had previously wanted increased dialogue with Moscow rather than punishment.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has consistently asked Italy’s EU partners to avoid isolating Russia and to involve Moscow in resolving international conflicts.