WORLD
18/05/2018 7:25 AM AEST

Italy Looks To Befriend Russia As Populist Parties Try To Form Government

As Italy’s far-right Lega and anti-establishment Five Star parties look to form their country’s next government, HuffPost Italia has obtained leaked documents that show the two parties are seeking better ties with Russia and plan to crack down on migration.

In a draft contract that outlines Five Star and Lega’s shared policies, the parties state they want to immediately lift sanctions against the Kremlin that have been in place since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The documents also include heavy criticism of the European Union’s response to migration and calls for a tougher line against migrants seeking asylum in Europe. Over 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy in recent years, bringing the issue of immigration to the forefront and contributing to the rise of far-right leaders such as Lega’s Matteo Salvini.  

Italy has been in a period of political gridlock since its election in March left no clear winner. But in recent weeks the eurosceptic Five Star and Lega parties have moved closer to agreeing on a governing coalition, a deal that would give Italy one of the most populist governments in all of Europe.

An earlier draft of the contract between the two parties, published by HuffPost Italia this week, caused widespread concern in Europe. The document showed that the parties wanted to take a combative stance toward the EU, and even stated that they would look to find ways that the country could potentially opt-out of the eurozone. 

The Milan stock market fell after the news and investors dropped Italian assets amid fears of political and economic instability. 

The latest document waters down many of the more extreme policies, however, including mention of asking the European Central Bank to cancel nearly $300 billion in debt and talk of leaving the euro currency. 

Even with a more moderate attitude toward the EU, the parties are expected to attempt radical domestic changes after promising to eliminate pension cuts and boost the welfare state. Economists worry that such goals are unrealistic given that Italy is deeply in debt ― making up 132 percent of its GDP.

Five Star and Lega are expected to announce a finalized deal in the coming days, ending months of negotiations and ushering in an uncertain new era for Italy.