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    Despite sanctions and the economic crisis, Italy continues to develop its economic ties with Russia. Moreover, Italian companies plan to take advantage of the growing market of the Eurasian Economic Union.

    Over the last three years, Italian companies have lost 70 percent of their exports to Russia, which is equivalent to nearly €7 billion ($7.4 billion), said Ernesto Ferlenghi, the president of Confindustria Russia, the association representing and supporting Italian companies operating in Russia.

    According to him, now Italian businesses should not lose their competitive capabilities in the Russian market and not miss the opportunities provided within the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

    Such a sharp drop in Italian exports to the Russian market resulted from the devaluation of the Russian ruble as well as Western sanctions and Moscow’s responsive restrictive measures.

    Ferlenghi underscored that these factors affected the readiness of Italian business to invest in Russia.

    "In the new conditions in the Russian market, Italian companies need a new model of participation," he told Sputnik Italia.

    Data from the European market show that in the next 10-15 years, 90 percent of global growth will be seen outside the European Union.

    "We should keep an eye on the economic situation and try not to miss opportunities. This is why we’re closely watching the situation in the Eurasian Economic Union. This organization will further develop. If Europe wants to have long-term relations with other countries it should not ignore the importance of this organization which promoted the idea of a free trade area," Ferlenghi said.

    He also said that in the last three years Italian companies have faced serious competition against Chinese firms in the Russia market.

    "They [Chinese companies] are pushing European firms from the market. They are very active and want to be privileged partners. Chinese banks are investing joint companies in Russia while Italian banks have problems with investments to Russia due to sanctions," Ferlenghi pointed out.

    However, he added that despite all obstacles Russia and Italy maintain solid business ties.

    "I can’t say that our Russian partners are losing confidence in Italian companies. Business has no reasons to be concerned over the political situation in Italy," he said.

    On Sunday, Italians rejected a constitutional reform plan at a referendum, regarded by many as a vote on the policy of the government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

    In particular, Renzi has long been criticized by Italy’s business elites calling on the government to lift anti-Russian sanctions. Facing persistent pressure, Renzi has been one of the EU leaders opposing sanctions against Moscow.

    Since 2014, relations between Russia and the European Union have soured amid the crisis in Ukraine. Brussels, Washington and their allies have introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions since Crimea became part of Russia in 2014 and over Moscow's alleged involvement in the conflict between the pro-independence eastern Ukrainian militias and Kiev.

    Russia has repeatedly refuted the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability.

    In an earlier interview with Sputnik, Ferlenghi suggested that the Italian government would soon lift anti-Russian sanctions.

    "We live in the European Union and it is obvious that Italy has certain obligations. But I think that no matter who would come to power in Italy no one would say that Russia is not our strategic partner. If the 5 stars Movement or Lega Nord came to power, we would expect further improvement of relations with Russia and further steps towards the removal of anti-Russian sanctions," Ferlenghi said.

    Related:

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    Italy Lost Over $6Bln After Introduction of Anti-Russia Sanctions - Lega Nord
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    Central Italian Businesses Ask Juncker to Suspend EU Sanctions Against Russia
    Tags:
    business, investment, trade, sanctions, Eurasian Economic Union, European Union, Italy, Russia
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