Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leading big in polls with elections coming this year, visited the port of Piraeus and told officials of the Chinese company COSCO operating it that he’d speed their overhaul plans.
While Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has been wooing more Chinese investors, a 600-million euro ($674.41 million) upgrade is being blocked, as well as by a ruling by an archaeological council much of the area should be protected.
Mitsotakis promised that if he comes to power his party will not "allow the issue of protecting cultural legacy to be used an alibi to block investments,” the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.
Mitsotakis met with the port authority's leadership, and was received in Piraeus by the port authority’s CEO Capt. Fu Chengqiu, with the New Democracy leader presented details of the master plan, including new cruise ship piers, a passenger terminal, expansion of the car terminal, new luxury hotels and a rail-linked logistics hub among the key elements.
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 reportedly failed to bridge differences.
SYRIZA wants the draft master plan to be broken up into two parts, with the first including all of the projects specified in a framework contract between Greece’s privatization agency (HRADF) and COSCO, the paper said.
The second part of the agreement would include “non-obligatory” projects, mostly the ones that have attracted opposition, such as a new shopping mall within PPA’s premises, hotels and even high-rise construction, with the Chinese company refusing.
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.
Businesses in Piraeus that count on cruise ship arrivals in an area that remains downtrodden don’t want the mall, the paper said, fearing the competition.