While many politicians and entrepreneurs from the EU have become frequent visitors to Yalta, for others, like the founder of the centre-right Europeanist party Italia Madre ("Mother Italy") Irene Pivetti, it's their first visit to Russia.
Early in her political career, Pivetti was the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. She took a long break from politics after that but is now making a comeback, with her party participating in the upcoming EU, regional, and administrative elections.
Sputnik sat down with Pivetti in Yalta to talk about the forum and her political platform.
Sputnik: You've been in Russia and in Crimea for just a few hours, so it's probably hard to form an opinion about the country. But, still, what are your first impressions?
Sputnik: European politicians often face criticism from mainstream media in their home countries if they visit Crimea to see for themselves what's happening here. Have you felt such pressure ahead of your visit?
Irene Pivetti: Not yet. In Europe, we are now campaigning to elect a new European Parliament. Probably because of this, there is a quite intense political debate. And I think that these conditions open new opportunities for "free thinking" and for creating our own opinions. I would not say that my opinion will be the same [as the one] of the Russian government. I just say that I want an opportunity to have my own opinions about this.
Sputnik: Just how important are events like this one for people's diplomacy, for a direct exchange of ideas?
Irene Pivetti: It has overwhelming importance. And it's very important to have such opportunities — putting together information issues, political issues, commercial issues, and so on. But also, if I were the Crimean government, I would ask the "new European government" — the future European Parliament to take an initiative in order to at least keep the door open for discussions about Crimean issues, because Crimea is at the very doors of Europe and in the middle of the Eurasian continent.
That's why I'm here. I'm presenting myself as a future politician in Europe. And I want an opinion of my own about this issue.
Sputnik: We've heard from one of our guests here at the forum today that in the coming months, with the EU leaders leaving their offices this summer right after the parliamentary elections, there will be a "window of opportunity", for change in Europe's policies towards Russia and its neighbours. What's your view on that?
And the "old government" is just there for ordinary things, and is not in a condition to take a political initiative. So, these future months can bring about an opportunity for Crimea and other "critical sceneries" surrounding Europe to be taken into consideration, and I hope that Italy will play a major role in this parliamentary diplomacy.