Chinese, Greek foreign ministers discuss economic relations
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Greek officials on Wednesday during a visit to Athens which is expected to focus on promoting Chinese investment in Greece.
Greece recently emerged from a brutal decade-long financial crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economy and rushed to attract international investment.
China, which is building ports, railways and other infrastructure in dozens of countries around the world as part of its Belt and Road initiative, is already heavily involved in Greece. Chinese company Cosco Shipping now owns 67% of the Greek port authority in Piraeus, one of the largest ports in Europe, after Greek lawmakers ratified the sale of 16% of the company’s capital in addition to the 51 % already owned by Cosco.
Wang met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday, followed by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. Mitsotakis ‘office said the meeting discussed “the prospects for further development of Greek-Chinese economic and investment plans” after the sale of Piraeus’ stake was ratified.
As part of the sale, Greece granted a five-year extension to the investments Cosco had made as part of its initial purchase of a majority stake in Piraeus.
“We look forward to new investment projects in the largest port in the Mediterranean, one of the largest in the world,” said Dendias after meeting Wang.
“We have repeatedly said that Greece can be a gateway from Asia to Europe, an energy hub,” said Dendias, noting that the two had discussed deepening economic relations between the countries, as well as the strengthening of cultural and tourist links.
Wang described China’s involvement in Piraeus as an “iconic” project under the Belt and Road Initiative and a model of mutually beneficial cooperation.
Unions, however, have criticized working conditions at the marine terminal, saying profits are placed above safety, jeopardizing the well-being of employees. A worker died this week in an accident at the container terminal managed by Cosco in Piraeus.
The Greek opposition party Syriza criticized the conditions at the port, claiming these work accidents were caused by “the constant exhausting work rates (at the container terminal) which cause long-term burnout and work-related illnesses. “.
Cosco acquired the 51% stake in the port of Piraeus in 2016, under a government led by Syriza.