Italy lost along the Silk Road? That absence in the western club

On the sidelines of the G20, Biden, Widodo and von der Leyen met with allied and partner leaders and ministers to underscore support for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. The only G7 country absent: Italy. That’s why it’s important not to stay out

On the sidelines of the G20 summit, the US president Joe Bidenthe Indonesian one Joko Widodo and that of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen met with the leaders and ministers of Argentina, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany, Japan, India, Senegal and the United Kingdom to “underline the collaboration and support” of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, launched at the last summit G7 in June, between partners like-minded globally. That’s what we read in one fact sheet released by the White House relating to the Biden administration’s commitment to the project often defined as the Western alternative, worth 600 billion euros by 2027, to the Silk Road launched almost a decade ago by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The absence of Italy at that table is striking, the only G7 country not present but also the only one to have joined the Silk Road in the now distant 2019 with the yellow-green government led by Joseph Conte. It is also striking because the meeting was held on the occasion of the G20 at the end of which Giorgia Meloniprime minister, met with Xi hoping for the promotion of “mutual economic interests” and the resumption of “all channels of dialogue” with Xi’s China.

According to Richard Fontaine, chief executive officer of the think tank Center for a New American Security in Washington, it is “natural” a certain interest in a strengthening of economic ties with China expressed by Meloni, the German chancellor, the French president Emmanuel Macron and by other leaders after the meeting between the Chinese leader and the US president Joe Biden. But European leaders should be cautious, the expert explained to “Beijing sees the United States and Europe as separable powers. Note Xi’s request to Meloni to help keep the European Union’s policy towards China ‘independent’. Regardless of who, one might ask.”

As noted Politic“China has clearly revived its long-established tactic of courting individual EU countries and their national interests, which it has often used to destabilize Brussels”.

Italy, through the International Partners Group of which it belongs, is involved in a new project linked to the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment: the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership, designed to mobilize an initial amount of 20 billion dollars in financing public and private sectors over a three to five year period to pave the way towards achieving ambitious future climate and energy goals.

Also for this reason, it would be wrong to interpret Italy’s absence as a step backwards from the commitment undertaken at the G7. But it risks being a misstep with allies and partners like-mindedespecially in a phase of growing clash between democracies and autocracies, where distinguishing between the economic and political interests of the latter is even more complicated.

Added to this is the fact that in the last few hours the Chinese leader Xi announced his intention to hold the third forum on the Silk Road in 2023, a few months after the expiry of the memorandum of understanding signed by Italy in 2019. This too could become a test for Meloni’s Italy, who before the elections had defined that agreement as a “big mistake” for the renewal of which “I would hardly see the political conditions”.

Italy lost along the Silk Road? That absence in the western club –