Paolo Grimoldi

Paolo Grimoldi
Sanctions imposed by Brussels on Russia over its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis have so far only managed to make European economies "suffer," an Italian Lega Nord regional leader told RT as his party strikes a coalition deal.

"How long do we have these sanctions already?" Paolo Grimoldi, a secretary for the Lega Nord party in the Italian northern region of Lombardy rhetorically asked, referring to restrictions imposed by the EU back in 2014. "What was the result? Nothing," he emphatically stated as he commented on the call for an immediate lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia, which is included in the government program presented by his party and its coalition ally, the Five Star Movement (M5S).

"We are not the only ones in Europe that consider sanctions against Russia useless," Grimoldi said. He also said that he does not understand why the Italian economy as well as the economies of other European countries have to "suffer" because "some people in Crimea held a referendum and decided to join Russia."

"I do not understand why it is ok for some countries to have a democratic vote and decide, what they are, but the people in Crimea or Russia cannot do the same," he told RT, recalling that the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was not followed by any sanctions whatsoever.

The politician also said that his party does not want the EU creating "problems" for Italy or its economy, taking into account that Rome is a net contributor to the EU budget. "I know for sure that we give EU more money every year than we get back, that we lose €8 billion ($9.4 billion) to EU every year," he said, adding that it would be "stupid" for Italy to keep paying and getting such "problems" back from Brussels.

An MP from Lega Nord's coalition partner, the M5S, Manlio di Stefano, also said that "Euroskepticism is growing in Italy every year" as "people are desperate [and] we have a large number of people below the poverty rate." At the same time, he said that the measures included in the coalition agreement would actually benefit the EU in the long term, as they would allow the two parties to "calm down the country and to be able to [make Italy] stay in the European Union in a strong way."

"This [coalition] contract is made of the needs of Italian people," di Stefano told RT. "We focus on democracy, on the rule of law, we want to be part of the EU but to be stronger as Italy. We say: 'Italy first but still in the EU,'" he added. The politician said that "70 percent of the points" in the two parties' programs were "common" and called the coalition pact "a good result."

Russian sanctions aside, the pact calls for a revision of existing EU rules on immigration and refugees. It demands an "obligatory and automatic" distribution of asylum seekers throughout the entire 28-member bloc, as well as a "serious and efficient" deportation policy. It also pledges billions of euro in tax cuts, and promises additional spending on welfare for the poor, as well as including a U-turn on controversial pension reforms. However, the final accord dropped a proposal that sought radical changes to EU fiscal rules.

Collectively, M5S and Lega Nord won the majority of the vote in nationwide elections on March 4. Together, the two parties have some 56 percent of the seats in the lower house of the Italian parliament.