During his visit to Rome, Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, was scheduled to hold “comprehensive” talks with China’s head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Li.
“The discussion will be extensive,” Tajani told reporters at the foreign ministry.
Wang’s visit to Italy is part of a nine-day trip that includes stops in France, Hungary, Germany, and Russia and comes amid increased diplomatic tensions between China and the US over spy balloons allegedly flown over each other’s airspace.
Discussions with Wang about the multibillion-dollar Memorandum of Understanding Italy signed with China in 2019 to improve connectivity between the two countries would be “premature,” according to Tajani.
“It is premature to discuss the new Silk Road at this time because there are other priorities and emergencies,” Tajani stated.
Wang is expected to seek an extension until 2024 of the 2.5 billion euro Belt and Road Initiative MoU inked by Italy and China in March 2019, which Italy’s rightwing premier Giorgia Meloni has called “a big mistake”.
When Meloni’s conservative coalition government took office in October, she expressed scepticism about renewing the BRI agreement, citing Beijing’s positions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China’s Muslim Uyghur minority.
According to Meloni, the Global Gateway, the European Union scheme to invest up to 300 billion euros in infrastructure development around the world between 2021 and 2027, should be prioritized.
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