Call for EU veto as Germany eyes Italy’s China deal warily

Italy's participation in China's giant "Silk Road" infrastructure project sparked an outcry in Germany on Sunday, including a call for the European Union to block such deals with a veto.

Call for EU veto as Germany eyes Italy's China deal warily
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

“The expansion of transport links between Europe and Asia is in itself a good thing — as long as the autonomy and sovereignty of Europe is not endangered,” the EU's budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told the Funke newspaper group.

But the German commissioner said he viewed “with concern that in Italy and other European countries, infrastructure of strategic importance like power networks, rapid rail lines or harbours are no longer in European but in Chinese hands.”

“Europe urgently needs a China strategy, that lives up to its name,” he added.

Noting that EU member states were sometimes not adequately taking into account national and European interests, Oettinger suggested that “an European veto right, or a requirement of European consent — exercised by the Commission — could be worth considering.”

Oettinger's call came after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had sharp words for Rome over its deal with Beijing.

“In a world with giants like China, Russia or our partners in the United States, we can only survive if we are united as the EU,” Maas told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“And if some countries believe that they can do clever business with the Chinese, then they will be surprised when they wake up and find themselves dependant.

“China is not a liberal democracy,” he stressed.

Europe has been struggling to find a coherent strategy to deal with China.

While the continent desperately needs to keep China on its side as a trade ally, it is also wary of the Chinese state's ambitions and growing global clout.

Italy on Saturday became the first G7 country to sign up for Beijing's new “Silk Road” project of road, rail and sea transport and trade links stretching from Asia to Europe.

The project has raised eyebrows in Washington and in some EU capitals where critics say it will give China too much sway.

China's President Xi Jinping has said it would be a two-way street of investment and trade.

Following his visit to Italy, Xi stopped in Monaco on the French Riviera Sunday before meeting later in the evening with France's Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO: Italy, China sign new 'Silk Road' protocol

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Germany toughens China travel warning over ‘invasive’ Covid tests

Germany has toughened its advisory against travel to China, warning that travellers could be placed under hospital quarantine for weeks upon arrival and subjected to "invasive" medical tests even if they have previously recovered from the coronavirus.

Germany toughens China travel warning over 'invasive' Covid tests
A plane flying from Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

In its latest travel advisory update, the Foreign Ministry said that the stringent measures were imposed on “people cured of Covid-19”, as well as others who test positive for antibodies because of an undetected illness, or others who had arrived on the same flight and who test positive for the coronavirus.

“Medical measures applied by the Chinese side are invasive and include in part daily blood tests and computer scans,” the Foreign Ministry said.

All travellers arriving in China are required to serve a 14-day quarantine at a location determined by the government.

While small children are “as a rule” allowed to spend their quarantine with their parents, those aged 14 years and up can be placed in isolation away from their family.

The Süddeutsche newspaper reported that the ministry had heightened its warning after two German nationals were held in hospital quarantine for several weeks.

Both had recovered from the coronavirus previously and had tested positive for antibodies, added the report, noting that they were nevertheless forced to undergo medical tests.

The newspaper said the Foreign Ministry had filed protests with the Chinese government over how the two Germans were treated.