July 14, 2024

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The defence minister criticises Italy’s alarming decision to join the Belt and Road

Italy’s decision to join “China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” was criticized by the country’s defense minister, Guido Crosetto, who described it as an “improvised and atrocious” act. According to Crosetto, the BRI has not benefited Italy’s exports and has only favoured China. Despite China’s claims of “fruitful results” for both nations through the initiative, Italy’s Western allies were concerned about the move, as it made Italy the first developed economy to join the BRI.

The BRI is a global investment programme aiming to connect China with Europe and other regions by revitalising the ancient Silk Road trade route. It involves China funding major infrastructure projects worldwide, seeking to facilitate the transport of Chinese goods to distant markets. Critics view the initiative as a means for China to expand its influence. Both the EU and the US expressed reservations when Italy decided to participate in the scheme four years ago.

Crosetto emphasised that Italy needs to find a way to disengage from the BRI without damaging its relationship with Beijing. He acknowledged China as both a competitor and a partner, and as China’s assertiveness grows on the global stage, Italy must carefully consider how to withdraw from the initiative without causing negative consequences.

Since May, there has been extensive debate about whether Italy should continue with the BRI. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed interest in discussing the possibility of withdrawing from the initiative with China. The current agreement is set to be automatically renewed in March 2024 unless Italy formally requests to withdraw before December this year.

China’s foreign ministry has been actively campaigning to convince Italy to renew the deal. Senior officials have been sent to lobby for Italy’s support for the BRI. They maintain that both countries should explore further cooperation under the initiative to achieve mutually beneficial results.

In summary, Italy’s involvement in the BRI has been met with criticism from its defence minister, who believes it has not served the country’s interests. As Italy contemplates a potential withdrawal, it must carefully navigate the situation to maintain positive relations with China.