Greece EU Presidency Woos China

ATHENS – While Greece will stick close to a domestic agenda in its priorities for its six-month tenure heading the rotating European Union Presidency on Jan. 1, it will also make closer ties with China a key issue.

China has been growing in importance to the EU in terms of trade as many Chinese companies want to make greater inroads into the region, Greece has been especially seeking closer co-operation, including in tourism and culture as well as business.

Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist leader serving Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, told the Chinese news agency Xinhua: “The Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the EU will work to enhance the economic and political relations between its friend and strategic partner China and the European Union.”

He added: “We believe that the European and Chinese economies – two global economic powers – can only benefit from increased access to each other’s markets.”

Venizelos said the way forward would be to take advantage of the roadmap produced by last month’s EU-China Summit and deepen partnerships.

With Greece expected to return to economic recovery next year and exit an acute debt crisis, Venizelos expressed confidence that the enhanced collaboration would further boost Sino-Greek economic ties.

“Naturally, Greece’s already excellent economic partnership with China will also benefit from closer EU-China cooperation,” Venizelos said.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised to give the “red-carpet treatment” to foreign investors as he visited China in May in hopes of luring investors to help revive his country’s battered economy.

Leading a delegation of business leaders from companies including Alpha Bank, Gaea Products, and Dynagas, Samaras told a business forum that China should see Greece as a gateway to investment in the rest of Europe.

“Greece is determined to turn the crisis into an opportunity for a new start,” Samaras said. “Combining Greece’s advantages and China’s penetration in global trade as well as its competitive production costs, we can build a strong partnership.” Little has come of it yet.