Giuseppe Conte against Italy’s exit from the BRI. Mr Conte, former Prime Minister and leading member of the Five Star Movement, was the one who decided to sign the memorandum with China and enter the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2019. The Italian PM Giorgia Meloni kept her electoral promise and withdrew from the Chinese project, drawing criticism from Mr Conte. Meloni’s choice is “an own goal,” according to Mr Conte, who thinks it is “an ideological decision, which harms businesses and brings trade relations with China back to year zero.”
- He argued that the agreement “did not affect any of [Italy]’s strategic assets and facilities.”
- Mr Conte’s position was also supported by some Italian MPs who are members of the “Friends of China” association and agree that the withdrawal will ultimately affect Italian businesses.
Meloni defends the decision. The Italian PM did not hesitate to reply to Mr Conte’s criticism. “Conte should explain to us why we are the only nation to have joined the Silk Road, but we are not the nation that has the most trade with China,” said Ms Meloni, speaking on the sidelines of an event in Milan.
- “I think that we must maintain and improve economic and trade relations with China, but the Silk Road instrument has not given the expected results,” she added.
- The Italian PM was praised by her allies, including Marco Dreosto, a League member, who said that “strategic agreements must only be made with our allies” and reiterated the importance of safeguarding national assets “that could not fall into the hands of a competitor state.”
From the opposition, most support Meloni. Although the decision to exit from the Chinese investment partnership was not agreed with an official vote in Parliament, other Italian parties are aligned with the decision of Ms Meloni’s administration. Some members of parties in the opposition, including the Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva, have voiced that the Italian PM did the right thing.
- “It was the right choice because Italy is preparing to lead the G7,” said Lia Quartapelle, member of the PD and vice president of the foreign affairs committee in the Italian Parliament, and added that “a strategic relationship with China, sealed by a memorandum, would have been an anomaly”.
- Nicola Danti, member of the European Parliament for Italia Viva and vice-president of Renew Europe, wrote on social media that Italy “did not see even the shadow” of Conte’s estimated 20-billion-euro gains from the agreement.