Despite a planned $580 million upgrade of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company COSCO being blocked, Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, in Beijing, said Greece still wants better relations and investments.
Without mentioning the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA putting up repeated obstacles to investments, including by Cosco, which operates the port in Piraeus, Katrougalos said the two countries have a “significant alignment of interests,” without explaining what that meant if projects are being stymied.
He met with China’s ministers of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and Commerce Zhong Shan, as well the chief of the Development Commission, He Lifeng.
“From all these contacts… we can conclude two things. First of all that Greece and China are seriously investing in their bilateral strategic partnership,” Katrougalos said, citing China’s One Belt One Road initiative, in which Greece is set to play a “constructive role in promoting bilateral relations and Europe-China cooperation.”
He added that, “Greece has exited the economic crisis and offers significant opportunities for investment to the Chinese side,” although COSCO officials said they were more than unhappy over the Piraeus decision.
Without noting that, Katrougalos said that, “We discussed how this possibility will be reflected realistically in practice, and for the contacts to continue both in the private sector, and chiefly for this momentum to pay off in practice,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said the master plan by COSCO, which has already transformed the dingy port into the second-busiest in the the European Union, had run into government opposition.
Unofficial negotiations over the recent period between the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) officials and the leadership of the shipping and environment ministries over specific projects in the master plan have reportedly failed to bridge differences.
COSCO wanted to build a shopping mall hotels and even high-rise construction, but there was opposition by adjoining small businesses who don’t want the competition and with the Shipping Ministry preferring the renovation of unused hotels and new construction later, the paper added.
The fiercest opposition is against the mall being built next to a new 120-million-euro ($135.79 million) cruise ship hub that’s in limbo after legal challenges from contractors, who lost out in a tender for its construction.