The Belt and Road Initiative has been raised with me by representatives of the Chinese Government on a number of occasions during the course of wide-ranging discussions on a range of bilateral and foreign policy issues, notably during my visit to China in March 2018, and during high level visits from China to Ireland. During these discussions, I welcomed the Belt and Road Initiative as an effort to expand connectivity between Asia and Europe, and indicated that Ireland would explore appropriate ways to cooperate.
In 2018, the EU published its own Joint Communication on “Connecting Europe and Asia – Building Blocks for an EU Strategy”, which sets out the key elements of the EU’s approach towards connectivity with Asia. It places an emphasis on the need for connectivity projects to align with existing international standards and practices, and to be carried out on the basis of openness, transparency, and a level playing field for companies. It also stresses the importance of economic, social, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability. We fully support efforts to foster synergies between the EU's and China's connectivity initiatives, and this approach will form the form the basis for Ireland's engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative.
I have not been contacted by my Italian counterparts on this issue, but the broader issues of connectivity and broader EU-China bilateral relations were discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 March.