Relations between Italy and Russia have remained strong and positive even during the critical period of sanctions imposed on Moscow by the EU and its main Western partners since 2014 following the grave events in Ukraine. Italy, while recognising Russia’s clear responsibility for the unlawful annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Donbass, has always worked to keep a constructive dialogue with the Russian Federation. We believe in an inclusive approach that encourages Russia to collaborate in finding shared solutions for the world’s main challenges, including the fight against violent extremism and major international crises.
Political representatives from the countries meet very frequently. Main events in the first half of this year included a visit to Italy by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, for meetings with Ministers Gentiloni, Guidi, and Martina from 5 to 8 January. Minister Martina visited Moscow from 9 to 11 February, and Minister Gentiloni visited on 25 March to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich led a Russian government delegation to Rome on 15 April to meet Minister Gentiloni and Minister Martina. The delegation included Minister of Energy Novak, Minister of Transportation Sokolov, Minister of North Caucasus Affairs Kuztnesov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Shestakov, and Deputy Minister of Sport Kolobkov.
Minister of Trade and Industry Manturov visited Veneto on 24 May while Minister of the Economy Ulyukaev met with Minister Calenda in Rome on 7 June. Periodic bilateral talks also continued between Russia’s Deputy Minister and Italy’s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Undersecretary Amendola and Deputy Minister Meshkov met in Rome on 3 March and in Moscow on 7 and 8 June. Undersecretary Amendola also met the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs in Moscow on 8 June, and the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (Senate) in Rome on 5 July.
On 16 and 17 June, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Minister Calenda, and a delegation of prominent Italian entrepreneurs attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Italy had been invited as a guest of honour. Prime Minister Renzi met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the forum.
The overall level of economic relations between Italy and Russia remains substantial, despite a significant drop in trade since 2014 due to Russia’s negative economic situation, the hydrocarbon price crash, the devaluation of the rouble, and the trade restrictions that followed the Ukrainian crisis. Trade exceeded 21 billion euros last year, down from 26.8 billion euros in 2014. In the first quarter this year, trade fell 19.1% compared to the same period last year. Italian exports and exports were down 13.9% and 21.4% respectively, with a trade deficit for Italy of 1.4 billion euros.
About 400 Italian businesses have cemented themselves in Russia, 70 of them running production plants, and eight banks and a number of law firms. Italy’s main exports are machinery and mechanical appliances, textiles, furniture, plastics and pharmaceutical products.
Bilateral relations are particularly strong in the energy sector due to the countries' interdependence leading to common interests. Russia is Italy’s principal energy supplier: we import 20% of our oil and 47% of our gas from Moscow. ENI, ENEL, Saipem, and Ansaldo Energia are strongly rooted in the Russian market.
Italian companies have made important investments in the aerospace (Finmeccanica), household appliances (Indesit), automobile (FIAT), agri-food (Barilla, Cremonini, Ferrero), construction (Astaldi, Pizzarotti), and heavy industry sectors (Danieli, Iveco, Pirelli, Marcegaglia).
In the banking sector, Unicredit Russia is the largest foreign bank in Russia, while Banca Intesa Russia is among the top five banks for loans to SMEs. Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Iccrea, Mediobanca, Banco Popolare, Banca Popolare di Vicenza, and UBI Banca have all opened offices in the country. Assicurazioni Generali owns stock in Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB, and in the Ingostrakh insurance company.
Italy and Russia’s collaboration in the field of research and technology is founded on the Science and Technology Cooperation Accord, which was signed in Rome on 1 December 1995 and came into force in 1999. Italy especially collaborates with Russia in physics – theoretical and nuclear, and in medical applications – space, radiobiology, radiotherapy, and chemistry.