Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has yet to make a final decision on Italy’s controversial role in China’s Belt and Road initiative after she initially signaled her intention to pull out from the investment pact.
"It is still too early to tell what the outcome of our evaluation will be, which is very sensitive and affects multiple interests,” Meloni said in an interview with Italian daily Il Messaggero on Sunday.
Italy can have "good relations” with China "even in important areas of interest with Beijing without necessarily being part of an overall strategic plan,” she said. Italy is the only Group of Seven country to have joined the Belt and Road but "it’s not the main Western or European commercial partner of China,” she said.
Italy signed onto the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019 when Giuseppe Conte was prime minister. The program, a modern effort to resurrect historic trade routes connecting China with Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has funded $900 billion in infrastructure projects globally.
In May, Meloni discussed with G7 allies the possibility of Italy pulling out of the deal, though a final decision was not been reached. Meloni’s government will have to make a final decision on whether to exit by Dec. 22 or the pact will automatically renew for five years.
Europe is recalibrating its relationship with China, looking to reduce dependencies on the authoritarian country while avoiding a harsh decoupling that would roil Western economies. Beijing’s continued close relations with Moscow have further tested the European relationship with China.