COSCO Stymied in Piraeus, Tsipras Going Back to China

Αssociated press

FILE - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum, at the International Conference Center in Yanqi Lake, north of Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017. (Roman Pilipey/Pool Photo via AP)

ATHENS - With the Chinese company COSCO that runs the port of Piraeus seeing plans for a 600-million euro ($668.76 million) blocked for now by an archaeological council and members of his Radical Left SYRIZA opposed to foreign investors, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is headed back to Beijing.

It will be his third trip there in three years as he was keen on getting more Chinese businesses interested in Greek state properties his government is selling off after he said it wouldn’t, bowing to demands of international creditors.

Tsipras headed off on April 25 to attend a summit on the country’s Belt and Road Forum in the Chinese capital on April 27, said Kathimerini, a trip coming on the heels of Greece being admitted to the so-called 16+1 Initiative of Central and Eastern European countries plus China earlier this month.

Tsipras, accompanied by Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to close a three-year memorandum for bilateral cooperation in key sectors including energy, transport, telecoms and finance.

China wants to also fund a multi-billion dollar Athens-Budapest rail line with Greece’s wretched rail system, taken over by an Italian company as part of a privatization drive, not connected to the rest of the EU.

The project, which is also designed to connect to the Serbian and North Macedonian capitals of Belgrade and Skopje, has been stymied so far by EU worries it could breach rules of competition and whether Hungary has complied with them.

Feng Zhongping, the head of European studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told The Financial Timesit made sense for Greece to join the 16+1 grouping.

“Greece has similar needs and demands in terms of cooperation with China as Central and Eastern European countries,” he said.

After fears among EU officials China was trying to unduly gain more influence, Feng said Beijing was now working hard to build trust in Brussels, seat of administrative offices for the bloc.

“China is trying to stabilize its relationship with Europe, making efforts to build trust and address concerns,” he said. “Both the recent visit to Europe by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Li’s trip are evidence that the EU’s concerns are being taken care of.”