China ‘breaking EU’ as Beijing sinks claws into bloc founder Italy | World | News


China’s Xi weaves Poland into ‘new silk road’ plan

The EU this week rejected pleas from Montenegro to help finance a $1billion (£728bn; €838bn) Chinese loan for an unfinished motorway project. An EU accession candidate, Montenegro has been plunged into a debt crisis because of the infrastructure project. The country’s officials have urged the EU to help repay the loan, which amounts to one-quarter of its overall debt.

It has thrust the spotlight on China’s growing influence and presence in the Balkans and South Eastern Europe.

The EU’s refusal to help risks opening the door for China’s state-run lender, the Export-Import Bank of China, to control assets owned by Montenegro, according to Politico.

In the past decade, China has turned its attention away from domestic economic growth to political influence and expansion internationally.

Its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative – known as China’s new Silk Road – hopes to modernise ancient East to West overland trading routes, as well as open new maritime passages to Africa and beyond.

China: Beijing has made countries like Italy 'break' with the EU

China: Beijing has made countries like Italy ‘break’ with the EU (Image: GETTY)

Montenegro: The EU candidate country's pleas for financial help were rebuffed by Brussels

Montenegro: The EU candidate country’s pleas for financial help were rebuffed by Brussels (Image: GETTY)

In 2019, Italy signed a mammoth €2.5bn (£2.2bn; $2.8bn) investment deal with China, becoming the first developed nation to join President Xi Jinping’s global programme.

The move sparked fears in Europe with Italy being one of the EU’s founding members, a part of NATO, and a G7 nation.

China’s new Silk Road was explored during DW’s documentary, ‘China’s gateway to Europe – the New Silk Road’, where Michele Geraci, who served as Undersecretary of State at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development in June 2018, spoke about his dealings with President Xi.

While the government he was part of under Giuseppe Conte lasted just 15 months, Mr Geraci claimed that the work he had done to bond Italy and China was still valid and ready to go.

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Italy: The country signed the mammoth investment deal with China in 2019

Italy: The country signed the mammoth investment deal with China in 2019 (Image: GETTY)

He said: “When I came in, I took on this project and actually delivered it.

“So I accelerated the process, made the final agreement with the Chinese counterpart, we implemented and we signed it.

“And I do think this is the best economic opportunity Italy has.

“To cooperate with China, doing business together.”

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Michele Geraci: Italy's former Undersecretary of State agreed to the China deal

Michele Geraci: Italy’s former Undersecretary of State agreed to the China deal (Image: Youtube/DW)

Trieste: China is said to have influence in the Italian port of Trieste

Trieste: China is said to have influence in the Italian port of Trieste (Image: GETTY)

The documentary noted: “Many saw the signing of this contract as a break with the old alliances.”

Mr Conte’s government’s logic was purely economic, justifying its actions by pointing to countries around the world also doing business with China, even if they had no official agreement.

Mr Geraci said: “There is absolutely no contradiction and no conflict with the European strategy.

“If someone worries about the fact that if China invests then you have to give them something back, China has invested in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Malta, Istanbul and Greece – and the UK.

China's Silk Road: The initiative is split into overland and maritime routes

China’s Silk Road: The initiative is split into overland and maritime routes (Image: Express Newspapers)

“All ports in Europe have Chinese ownership.”

It is true that in recent years China has gained ownership of several key ports in Europe.

The country became the majority shareholder in the Greek port of Piraeus in 2016, having bought part of it in 2008.

A gateway to Eastern, Central and later Northern Europe, the port of Piraeus will remain under Chinese control until 2051 when the lease expires.

Greece: Xi Jinping pictured visiting the Chinese owned port of Piraeus in 2019

Greece: Xi Jinping pictured visiting the Chinese owned port of Piraeus in 2019 (Image: GETTY)

It could, however, be extended.

This is a year after President Xi’s 2050 roadmap to transform China into a leading global power.

Of his plans, during a twice-a-decade party gathering in 2017, Xi said: “Chinese people will enjoy greater happiness and well-being, and the Chinese nation will stand taller and firmer in the world.”

He hailed the country’s Belt and Road initiative as a model that would help realise this plan.





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