“The port of Palermo must escape Chinese commercial or expansionist aims”. This is how Giorgio Mule , Undersecretary of Defense and deputy of Forza Italia, replies to a comment requested by Formiche.net on the occasion of an interview on relations between Italy and Kuwait. For him, born in Caltanissetta but graduated in Palermo, “it is essential that that port be managed by Italian companies”.
The reference to the Sicilian port, which as Mule also pointed out is crucial for Italy and trade to North Africa but also for military reasons, and as reported by the Southern Daily: the Chinese companies Cosco Shipping Ports, a Chinese state-owned company with investments in 15 European airports, and China Merchants Port Holdings, under the control of the Beijing Ministry of Transport, – groups that often move together in European ports, as reported on Formiche.net – have presented to the Sicilian authorities an investment plan by 5 billion euros to build and manage a megaplatform for container transport in the port of Palermo. The impact on employment when fully operational is estimated to be in the order of 500 new jobs, while it is currently more difficult to calculate the incidence in the related industries,Roberto Napoletano . CHINESE INVESTMENTS
As the Quotidiano del Sud reminds us, the port is part of the Port System Authority of the Western Sicilian Sea and hosts merchant ships, cruise ships and a Fincantieri shipyard. Quoted by the same newspaper, Alberto Vettoretti , managing partner of the consulting firm Dezah Shira & Associates China and from 2011 to 2017 consultant to the government of the city of Guangzhou, describes Chinese investments in Southern Italy as follows: “China has already invested heavily in Italy in strategic sectors, while Chinese companies, such as Huawei, are not viewed with distrust. A key aspect for the Italian government is the fact that Southern Italy is in extreme need of infrastructural investments and relies heavily on them ”.
Net of the considerations on Huawei that seem to be at least questioned by the recent decisions of the Draghi government, and to underline what it says later, which sounds like a somewhat predatory calculation exploiting the difficulties of others: “Not being able to increase the country’s deficit under the current EU rules, Chinese investments in infrastructures to give life to economic activities are therefore naturally appreciated ”. THE POSITION OF UNDER SECRETARY MULE
There are also issues of national security to consider, with ports already finished at the center of Copasir’s attention in recent months precisely because of economic activities that are not always looked upon favorably by either Italian intelligence or the current executive. . As he wrote a few months ago on Formiche.net the professorMaurizio Mensi , “China has made the maritime component of its Belt and road initiative the fundamental element of an expansionist strategy that aims at transport, energy and communication infrastructures, especially in developing countries and in Central and Eastern Europe”.
“Having been for years in the Transport Committee in the Chamber, I have seen closely the disasters and the lost prospects deriving from the Chinese aims on Italy,” explains Mule. “We must preserve the strategic nature of the port of Palermo”, concludes the undersecretary, defining the Italian management of the Sicilian port as “essential”. THE VISIT OF XI IN 2019
Chinese appetites for Sicily had become more insistent in 2019, on the occasion of Italy’s signature on the memorandum of understanding with China on the Silk Road. For that historic moment, certainly for Italy the first G7 country to join the Beijing project, Chinese President Xi Jinping had made a stop in Palermo. A visit sponsored by the then Undersecretary for Economic Development Michele Geraci , born in Palermo and today returned to teach in China after the political interlude during the yellow-green government led by Giuseppe Conte . Two objectives: to establish a relationship with the hometown of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarellaand pave the way for Chinese investments in Sicily, an area which, between ports, 5G and the nerve centers of submarine cables, has long since become a territory of competition and confrontation between China and the United States. The Royal Palace of Palermo, now the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, “would be perfect on the Silk Road,” he said to the President of the Assembly, Gianfranco Micciche .
If the Palermo deal goes through, it would follow that of Piraeus, a Greek port that has already been in the hands of Cosco for five years and whose portal authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with the one that administers the ports of Venice and Chioggia, as recalled il Quotidiano del Sud. But it cannot be forgotten that the ports of Genoa and Trieste still have an agreement on the table for over two years to be signed with China Communication Construction Company, which a year ago slowed down after the Chinese company and ended up on the US Department of Commerce blacklist. AMERICAN FEARS
Of American “fear” for the destiny of Italian ports Lewis Eisenberg spoke in July of last year, then US ambassador to Rome, after visiting Genoa, Trieste and Venice: the “fear” that the Chinese would try to enter these strategic infrastructures as elsewhere. On this, the diplomat explained, US attention is maximum.
A lighthouse, the US one on Italian ports, which has not gone out even in recent months after the departure of Eisenberg and with the embassy led by the charge d’affaires Thomas Smitham : proof of this is the fact that in May Robert Needham, consul general in Milan, spoke of investment opportunities for American companies on the one hand, and the “potential risks” of the Silk Road on the other. “As NATO allies, with troops present in Italian bases and with shared security and armament systems, we hope that Italy will carefully evaluate the potential risks for the economy and security in the search for partners for development projects of its ports ”, He added. THE ROLE OF EURISPES
The Chinese plan for the Sicilian airport follows the meeting of a representation of Chinese investors from Shanghai with the top management of Eurispes, at Villa Zito in Palermo, says Il Quotidiano del Sud. It is the same private Italian institute that deals with political, economic and social studies which in June had published an anonymous report, in defense of China against the “bias” of Western governments and media, entitled “Xinjiang. Understanding complexity, building peace “. Document also signed by Beppe Grillo , founder of the 5-star Movement, and by the pentastellato Vito Petrocelli , president of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Among the authors of that report, as told by the Foglio, there would be Fabio Massimo Parenti, professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, also signs the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, the Global Times, defender of Huawei and accuser of Uyghur “terrorists” in Xinjiang right on the pages of the Elevato.
Among the signatories figure of what Stefano Pelaggi , professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza, had defined on Formiche.net a “report / manifesto” also Marco Ricceri , general secretary of Eurispes, and Thomas Fazi , son of the publisher Elido Faziand always close to the positions of the 5 Star Movement. For Pelaggi it is “singular” that Eurispes, a private body that “is constantly commissioned by institutions and local administrations to describe the state of Italian society”, has chosen “a perspective so distant from the unanimously decided position in the relevant offices”, “Especially in light of the lack of scientific method in the drafting of the manifesto”. ***UPDATE***
“From the press, we learn of a project that would follow meetings between the Chinese companies Cosco Shipping Ports and China Merchants Port Holdings and the top management of Eurispes and which concerns the port of Palermo. This is news that returns cyclically and of which the Port System Authority of the sea of ​​western Sicily, which has jurisdiction over the Palermo port, is not aware. Obviously it concerns areas outside the jurisdiction of the AdSP itself but which does not fail to create confusion every time “. This was clarified in a note by the Port System Authority of the western Sicilian sea.

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