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Silk Road Headlines_13th March, 2019

"When one door is closed, another one opens" dixit Alexander Graham Bell. Opportunity was not knocking at the doors of EU member states in the aftermath of the financial crisis, which meant that they were in search of options to meet their financial needs. In some cases, China provided these options.

There are a lot of interesting developments vis-à-vis the BRI and the EU in the upcoming weeks. A closer eye on the SRH is warranted. Allegedly, the EU shall present its unified BRI-strategy on the 9th of April 2019. Coincidentally, Prime-Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his intentions for signing the non-binding MoU with China during the visit of President Xi Jinping on the 22nd and 23rd of March 2019. China has already signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Poland and Portugal. And China does strengthen its position via the 16+1 cooperation within other EU member states.

China can access Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary via Italy. Venice may even be revamped into a super port to rival with the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg. This way Italy would be the first G-7 country (UK, US, Japan, Italy, France and Germany) to actively endorse the BRI project, when the MoU is signed [Marco Polo is back in China – again]. The US and Japan are the only G-7 countries that are not non-regional members of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). Be that as it may, deputy Prime-minister and Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini is not against the MoU by stating: “If it’s about helping Italian companies invest abroad, then we are ready to talk to anyone [...]. But we’re absolutely not ready to do so if it’s a question of foreign companies colonizing Italy". Other Lega Nord members warmly support the signing of the MoU, e.g. Undersecretary of State at the Italian Ministry of Economic development, Michel Geraci. This could affect Italy's inner political struggle, as well as EU integration as a whole in the long term.

Questions are being raised about the phenomenon 'debt-trap-diplomacy'. According to an SCMP-article the Chinese share of Pakistan's total amount of foreign debt is around 10 percent, whilst the share of multinational lenders acquits to around 40 percent, which is an interesting perspective [China says multinational lenders are to blame for debts of belt and road partners like Pakistan].The aforementioned information was used for another article by US-based CNBC in 2018 [Whether Pakistan accepts money from the IMF or China, its economy is still headed for trouble]. All in all, the phenomenon 'debt-trap policy' warrants more evidence that can either substantiate or disprove this claim.

As Maya Angelou puts it: "There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth".


By Clingendael

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