Italy, Russia sign nuclear agreement

10:34, April 27, 2010      

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Italy and Russia signed on Monday an important agreement of cooperation in the nuclear sector aimed at exchanging technological know-how and building new power plants.

The agreement was launched at a bilateral summit attended by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral and global issues, according to a statement released by the Italian government headquarters.

At a joint press conference hosted by the two leaders after the meeting, Berlusconi praised the excellent state of bilateral relations and welcomed Putin "as a friend to whom I am linked by years of fondness and affection."

The summit, held at Villa Gernetto in the town of Lesmo in northern Italy, focused primarily on energy and economic cooperation.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Italian oil giant Eni and Russia's Inter Rao Ues (both patrons were present at the meeting) to collaborate in the construction of groundbreaking nuclear power plants and in boosting energy efficiency, technical innovation and distribution in Russia and Eastern European countries.

The Italian and Russian research ministries launched as well a joint study on nuclear fusion. Italy and Russia have always enjoyed a prosperous energy partnership. Italy is one of Europe's main importers of Russian gas.

Berlusconi pledged that the construction of the South Stream pipeline, a strategic infrastructure aimed at bringing Russian gas to Italy bypassing Ukraine, will start in 2012 and finish by 2015. The project involves Italian Eni and Russian Gazprom.

Thanks to the South Stream pipeline, set to run beneath the Black Sea, "countries like Bulgarian and Romania, as well as Italy, will never again be at risk of being left in the cold and dark," Berlusconi noted, referring to a severe gas interruption following a dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Nuclear is expected to become ever more central in bilateral relations. Putin offered Russian assistance and technological know- how for Italy to build nuclear plants, closed down in the 1980s' following a national referendum held in the country.

Berlusconi pledged to start construction of new plants within the next three years.

Putin stressed that what made ties between Italy and Russia so strong was not merely energy cooperation. "Our two countries deal together in many sectors" including metallurgy, aerospace and chemical industries, he said.

"Relations between Russia and Italy are not only a matter of good personal relations between Berlusconi and I, they are based on reciprocal state interests," said Putin.

But despite the excellent commercial ties, Berlusconi observed that in 2009 due to the global downturn bilateral trade registered a 30 percent drop. The Italian premier said he hoped "the economic revival to recover previous trade levels" between the two countries.

Putin as well expressed optimism for the future. "our trade must return to pre-crisis levels and in order to do so we must move actively,"he said.

In sign of friendship, the Russian premier invited Berlusconi to attend celebrations in Moscow for Victory Day on May 9 and committed to the reconstruction of two ancient artistic buildings destroyed in the L'Aquila earthquake by allocating 7.2 million euros.

Other issues discussed by the two leaders were the Middle East peace efforts and the upcoming Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting, chaired by Italy and scheduled for May 27-28.

Berlusconi was accompanied at the summit, amongst others, by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini, civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso and a pool of leading businessmen.

The Russia delegation included Energy Minister Serghei Shmatko, Deputy Premier Igor Secin and a group of state industry managers.

Source: Xinhua


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