Italy’s new government has already hinted that it is looking to court investment from China, with high-level officials including finance minister Giovanni Tria touting long-standing connections in the country and making trips to Beijing a priority.

A new report suggests that, to this end, the country is looking to counter European Union efforts to screen Chinese investments.

The previous Italian administration made efforts to limit Chinese investment in strategic sectors, but according to Michele Geraci, an undersecretary of the country’s finance ministry, this has now changed.

“We are very different from the previous government on China,” Geraci, who spent a decade teaching in Shanghai, told Bloomberg. “We are trying not to ignore China as has been done in the past.”

“We are trying to see how Italy can be the leading European Union partner in the Belt and Road Initiative,” he added.

“Italy’s position in the Mediterranean is quite crucial for that, China is keen to have a big European country as a partner.”

Italy has consistently been more open to China’s Belt and Road Initiative than other European countries. Former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni was the most high-profile Western leader to attend the first BRI forum, held in Beijing in 2017, while heads of state from the UK, France, Germany and the US all declined to attend.