‘Italy and China can have a solid relationship even without the BRI’
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said that Italy and China can have a great relationship even if the agreement for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not renewed. In addition, Meloni claimed that she wants to involve the Parliament in the decision about extending or interrupting the agreement.
Meloni’s opinion on the BRI is quite known. She was never in favour of Italy joining the BRI and made it clear that she is not planning on renewing the agreement. The main reasons behind her stance are China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as its attitude towards Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Uyghurs.
The Ministry of Defense, Giulio Crosetto, also stated in November that an extension of the Memorandum of Understanding between China and Italy is unlikely. However, other members of the current government, have different opinions. Matteo Salvini the Italian Minister of Transport, was part of the coalition that in 2019 signed the MoU, therefore his idea might be in contrast with Meloni’s.
Italy and the Belt and Road Initiative
Italy was, and still is, the first and only G7 country to sign an MoU with China regarding the New Silk Road. The agreement was signed by the government coalition led by Giuseppe Conte in 2019, where Salvini acted as Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of the Interior. It is planned to expire in March 2024 and Italy needs to make a decision on whether or not to renew it by the end of 2023.
The MoU signed in 2019 did not lead to significant developments when it comes to effective transportation agreements. Not renewing the BRI agreement might therefore not lead to significant changes in terms of project development. Concerning China, a new ambassador was recently appointed in Italy: Jia Guide, the former Chinese ambassador in Peru. The choice of Guide for Italy may not be casual after all. In 2019, while working as an ambassador in Lima, Peru joined the BRI that Italy is planning on leaving.