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As China expands Belt and Road in Europe, its promise could diminish

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Croatia'd Andrej Plenkovic on a bridge in the rain
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic at the construction site of a Chinese-funded bridge in southern Croatia on April 11, 2019. Photo: Xinhua/Huang Jingwen via Getty Images

Greece joined China’s club of Central and Eastern European countries during the group’s meeting in Croatia Friday, in another symbolic victory for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) just weeks after China signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy.

The big picture: China has long insisted that this grouping, now the “17+1” format, will not undermine the European Union. But it has adopted very different investment strategies in EU and non–EU countries.

Europe's populists form right-wing alliance ahead of EU elections

European populists join hands
Populist leaders of Finland, Germany, Italy and Denmark join hands at the announcement of a new euroskeptic alliance. Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced the formation of a new populist alliance — titled the "European Alliance of Peoples and Nations" — that will compete in next month's European Parliament elections on an anti-migration, pro-borders platform.

The big picture: Salvini, with whom fellow nationalist Steve Bannon has forged a close relationship, will be joined by euroskeptic parties from Germany, Finland, Denmark, France, Austria and the Netherlands. May's elections will be the first since the 2016 Brexit referendum, and will be a test for an EU threatened from within by newly empowered strands of anti-migrant nationalism.