European Interest

Italy’s far-right League now flirts with China

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will probably sign a memorandum of understanding with China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Rome and Palermo (Sicily) later this month. Italy became an important target for China’s ambitious giant infrastructure plan related to “Belt and Road” initiative. During the visit of the Chinese leader, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will probably sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to become a partner of the project.

To do so Conte needed the “green light” of the far-right League party, a partner of the coalition government.

Now League’s leader and vice-Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he is in favour of such a movement since the Sino-Italian cooperation would boost business.

“If it’s about helping Italian companies invest abroad, then we are ready to talk to anyone,” Salvini told reporters. “But we’re absolutely not ready to do so if it’s a question of foreign companies colonizing Italy,” Reuters reported.

China has strong supporters inside the Italian government. Michele Geraci, Undersecretary of State at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and one of the supporters of the deal, spent a decade teaching in China.

But the United States say, such a plan wouldn’t bring any benefit for Italy. In addition Italy’s participation will facilitate China’s project to support authoritarian regimes and export standards for technology applications that could threaten the West.

There is a well founded concern over the kind of Sino-Italian deal.

As reported by Reuters while the Italian ministry of industry stated that the did not include any accord over the creation of a 5G high-speed telecom network, Chinese companies have denied this.

The US urged Conte to reject the Chinese plan.

League’s rhetoric is particularly sensitive on matters of national independence, especially towards the European Commission. It has not similar views in what regards Russia and China.

However Italy is not the only EU member state to have signed MOUs with China. Hungary, Greece and Poland did so time ago. But Italy is a member of the Group of Seven major industrialised countries.

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