“My visit to Beijing and Shanghai,” the Prime Minister said “marks the mutual will of Greece and China to take a big step forward starting with our outstanding collaboration in the port of Piraeus at the base of a new mutually beneficial agreement and the conclusion of the Shipping Cooperation Year. To truly become strategic partners with upgraded trade and investment relations in a number of sectors, but also to develop a new level of political dialogue at a very crucial juncture in international and regional developments” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua. However, there have been some complications at the last moment, regarding the deal with COSCO who acquired the Piraeus port.
Mr. Tsipras noted: “[…] We look forward to a closer cooperation with China in the economic sector – a partnership with a global economic power. Our trade relations are already at a very good level. The Greek government aims particularly at further increasing the already significant exports of Greek products in the Chinese market, especially in the agro-food sector as well as boosting Chinese investments in Greece – mainly in transport and infrastructure. The expansion of cultural and educational exchange, the transfer of new technologies and the increase of tourist flows, with the launch of direct air link, are also among our targets”.
Asked on the refugee issue and the stance of Europe, the Prime Minister replied that “Europe faces three parallel crises – economic, refugee and security – which test its endurance. […] These actions, however, [taken by the Greek government and society] cannot address the root causes of the refugee crisis, which are found in Syria and the wider region. Despite its size, Greece has taken a number of initiatives for consultation and cooperation in the region and supports the efforts for peace and stability in Syria, Libya, Ukraine and Afghanistan. Moreover, we seek dialogue and cooperation both with our Euro-Atlantic partners and with global and regional forces such as China, Russia, Israel, Egypt and Iran, as part of our multidimensional foreign policy”.
The Chinese ambassador to Greece also commented on the agreement between China’s COSCO and Piraeus Port ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to China. “The project is a fine example of China-Greece cooperation, the significance of which has gone beyond economic cooperation and bilateral scope and has assumed great importance for promoting regional peace and development as well” the ambassador Zou Xiaoli said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.
Asked about the visit of Alexis Tsipras to China, Mr. Zou said Greece and China “should seize this important opportunity to push bilateral relations further ahead. The two sides will hold the Second China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum during the official visit and will sign a series of cooperation agreements on investment, finance, shipping, science and technology, culture, and tourism to strengthen cooperation between the countries.
“Greece is becoming an important knot on the ‘Belt and Road’ and the COSCO-Piraeus project has made Greece a key link between the Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road on land” the ambassador stressed. He also pointed to Mr. Tsipras’ “important speech” on China’s policy made at the beginning of 2015 on a Chinese navy vessel visiting Greece, which was “well received” by the Chinese side. “It is fair to say that Greece has all along been China’s reliable partner within the EU” he said.
He said Greece is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and its neighboring region has been hit by factors of instability such as war, the refugee crisis and terrorism. “This has enhanced the role of Greece as the anchor of stability and development in the East Mediterranean” he explained, adding that Middle East countries also wish that Greece can continue to act as a bridge between them and the EU. “Greece itself has been very active in its diplomacy and the debt crisis has not undermined its important role in foreign affairs” he noted.