EU leaders were united with regards to China as they gathered in Italy while Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting the country. They warned the Italian government of the consequences of becoming part of China’s new ‘Silk Road’ initiative. The warning came from both sides of the political spectrum as the Chinese leader is in Rome to oversee Italy signing up for the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative (OBOR). “We should not be naive”, Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, commented, adding that “you have to take into account the possibility that China, through these policies, is also pursuing its some of its national interests. It can present a problem given the content of those agreements.”
While other EU members have signed up for the Chinese initiative, it would be the largest European economy to sign the deal and the first G7 nation. OBOR is controversial due to the strict conditions Beijing has put on the participating countries. The Italian government’s decision was questioned by Brussels as the EU is preparing a tougher stance towards Beijing. The EU Commission has called the country a “systematic rival” in a paper that was published earlier this month.
The Europeans want to agree on a comprehensive list of demands to ask of the Chinese. “It is not a good method to discuss bilaterally agreements on the new ‘Silk Road’”, commented French President Emmanuel Macron following the gathering while his Italian counterpart Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte insisted that nobody asked for clarifications when he was speaking of the deal with China. “We agreed that we will reconvene on this, as they will catch up with us on the outcome of Xi Jinping’s visit in Paris,” he commented.