SYRIZA Ministry Kills Chinese Company’s $580M Piraeus Renovation

Τhe old Hellenikon International Airport site. Photo: Eurokinissi/Georgia Panagopoulou

ATHENS – While saying he wants foreign investors to help a burgeoning recovery, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA is trying to block linking a major renovation of the port of Piraeus to a stalled $8 billion development of the old Hellenikon Airport.

The two projects would create walkways and bikeways to go along with a tram, with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in the middle but a Shipping Ministry committee killed a draft master plan for the Chinese company Cosco for a $580 million Piraeus overhaul.

That came after Tsipras, reneging on anti-privatization pledges, let Cosco buy a major share in the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA,) where it has improved the decaying port and where it had a vision to make it one of the most attractive in Europe and lure more passenger ships.

Elements in SYRIZA don’t want any foreign investors and Tsipras has sent out mixed messages – sending ministers to New York and other investment forums while styming foreign projects in Greece.

The Shanghai-based Cosco is a global giant in shipping and port management and was transforming the port and adjoining neighborhoods where businesses don’t want competition from any new projects.

A decision by committee members cited discrepancies over the projects that Cosco must implement at the port as part of a concession agreement, mostly environmental impact studies, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

Cosco is obliged to pump another 293 million euros ($270.97 million) in investment at the PPA, the report said after the committee wouldn’t approve a shopping mall next to a new cruise ship terminal, one of four proposed hotels, the creation of a logistics center within the port premises and adjacent to the Keratsini municipality, the installment of a synchrolift, as well as two new parking areas.

The initial response by Cosco, although still unofficial, was “displeasure, towards all sides involved, with the government now spurning the company it wooed.