Former Italian PM Under Fire After Attending Conference In Saudi Arabia

Former PM Matteo Renzi's visit to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's event in Saudi Arabia has sparkled heavy criticisms in Italy.

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Teresa Marvulli
Teresa Marvulli
I am an Italian journalist based in the UK. I trained at City, University of London and I write about the environment, Italian politics and current affairs with a focus on the EU.

ITALY. Rome: Former Italian PM, Matteo Renzi, has been heavily criticised for his appearance at Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference.

Renzi is on the FII’s border of Trustees, for which he receives 80.000 dollars a year, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica

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The theme of this year’s FII, that took place between 27th and 28th January, was “Neo-Renaissance”.

Thus, Matteo Renzi in his speech introduced himself as the former Mayor of Florence, Renaissance’s motherland.

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In a video that became viral, the former Italian PM said: “I think Saudi Arabia could be the place of a new Renaissance in the future”.

The comment sparked backlash over human rights concerns related to Saudi Arabia- including the country’s involvement in Yemen’s war and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Furthermore, observers criticised Mr Renzi for flying to Riyadh during a delicate phase of the Italian government crisis.

A Twitter user wrote: “I am transfixed by Matteo Renzi’s timing here. In a single week, he collapses the Italian government with the claim that PM Conte was centralizing too much power over the EU Recovery Fund…. and then FLIES DIRECTLY TO RIYADH to lavish praise on MBS”.

In response to the criticism, Renzi has promised a press conference the week after the end of the government’s crisis. The aim of which will be to discuss the matter and his “international position”.

Italy stopped the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia

MMeanwhile, the Italian government has announced the stop of arms’ exports to Saudi Arabia over concerns of their use in the war in Yemen.

However, the two events were not connected.

In July 2019, Italy issued an 18-month stop on the export of bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia and UAE. In the same year, the country sold just under 4 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

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