EU sends warning to Italy over agreements with China

President Mattarella confirmed that telecommunication networks would not form part of any MoU signed with China. Photo credit: Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana

ROME - The European Union has warned member states that while it endorses agreements with China, the country still remains a rival to what the EU stands for.

 The announcement has come in response to news of Italy’s intention to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China regarding the latter’s Belt and Road initiative.

 The scheme intends to emulate the heights of the ancient Silk Roads by connections Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe with a series of interconnecting train lines, bridges, roads, and shipping lanes.

 The infrastructure China intends to help construct to implement the project will be the basis for facilitating international trade, boosting economic performance, and sustaining the growth of all countries involved.

 Proponents of the MoU see this as a unique opportunity for Italy to overcome recent economic decline, bring new investment and trade, improve existing infrastructure, and aid cultural exchange.

 Head of Italy-China Foundation Alberto Bombassei, amongst these advocates, claimed that the was Italy’s chance to “reposition itself at the centre of the Mediterranean.”

 However, Italy’s decision has been met with some concern from some parties, amongst the EU who warned that China’s growth and the expansion of its influence could negatively impact the union’s economic and social values.

 The EU is also concerned that the growth the rapid expansion of the Belt and Road project also poses a risk to its own single market framework.

 Opponents to the deal have also expressed concern at the futures of Genoa and Trieste, two of Italy’s key port bases, which under an agreement could risk becoming mere entry points for Chinese influence directly into the heart of Europe.  

 Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the 5-Star Movement Luigi DI Maio has been quick to reassure all parties of the upcoming deal. He maintained that the deal was not a political one and asserted that “the US remains [Italy’s] main ally”.

 It has also been confirmed by President Sergio Mattarella that telecommunications and 5G would not form part of the deal amid worries from many European and American nations regarding the threat posed by these Chinese networks.  

 The EU’s warning comes ahead of what can now be seen as a crucial EU-China Summit on 9 April. This event will take place soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Italy for the first time, a momentous occasion expected to be celebrated by the signing of the MoU.