Verona’s moving forum. The Verona Eurasian Economic Forum will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on November 2-3, as journalist Gianluca Paolucci reported on X. It’s the second time the symposium had to shift its location: traditionally held in its namesake Italian city, its organisers moved it to Baku, Azerbaijan in 2022, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, to allow for the participation of Russian oligarchs – such as Rosneft’s Igor Sechin, who bore greetings from President Vladimir Putin.
- The yearly symposium is organised by the Conoscere Eurasia Association, led by Antonio Fallico, who is president of Banca Intesa Russia (which is closing its local activities), as well as honorary consul of the Russian Federation in Verona.
Gathering of the Russophiles. Several Italians had participated in Baku’s edition. Among them was Vito Petrocelli, formerly Five Star Movement (M5S) senator and Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese positions. “First day of the Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona, hosted this year by the city of Baku in Azerbaijan. This also allows for the participation of Russian speakers,” he had written on then-Twitter.
- The words represented the organisers’ line. They had pointed the finger at the European Union and sanctions, claiming that the move was a serious loss for Italy and its international prestige.
Also in attendance:
- former Prime Minister Romano Prodi remotely;
- Pino Arlacchi, who as an MEP in 2013 had defended the elections in Azerbaijan as “free, fair and transparent” contrary to the claims of several organisations, including the OECD and Human Rights Watch;
- Giorgio Bianchi, journalist, former candidate for a minor far-left and populist party, who in the previous months had interviewed Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, exchanging jokes and laughs with her on the international situation, without sparing criticism of the West and praise for the Russian invasion of Ukraine;
- Alessandro Bianchi, a friend of former M5S member Alessandro Di Battista and director of l’Antidiplomatico, a website describing itself as “one of the reference voices of the multipolar world that has asserted itself over the bloody US-led unilateralism.”
Why Samarkand? With Baku apparently not open to host it anymore, the choice for the 2023 edition has fallen on a city even further away from Verona. The Uzbek Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade is also contributing to the forum’s organisation.
- Samarkand also hosted the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit a year ago. In line with the efforts of President Xi Jinping’s China, the SCO is expanding beyond Central Asia and towards South Asia, the Gulf and Northern Africa, almost to the Mediterranean.
- It is no coincidence that Chinese diplomacy had pointed out that Samarkand is an “ancient city on the Silk Road.”
- In other words, the Verona Eurasian Economic Forum might be getting a little more Chinese.