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Silk Road for Greece, China Tightening Ties During COVID-19

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(Photo by Eurokinissi)

Despite the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that began in China, relations with Greece are getting closer between the countries as Beijing returns to pushing its Belt and Road initiative to gain a bigger foothold in the European Union.

The so-called New Silk Road uses the port of Piraeus, where the Chinese company COSCO is the key operator and renovating and building facilities, to also plan to improve rail links from there into other EU countries for Chinese products and goods.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held separate meetings in Athens with Yang Jiechi, China's top foreign policy chief, who repeated China's mantra that the two countries are close friends although some critics in the EU warned it's a ploy to spread Chinese influence across the bloc.

Greece wants more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to try to kick start what had been a slow recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that was stopped in its tracks when the Coronavirus struck the world from its start in Wuhan.

Yang said China and Greece are true friends in good and bad times and partners through thick and thin, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said, the new call coming after the leaders of the two countries exchanged visits in 2019.

He also called on the two sides to strengthen high-level guidance and cement strategic mutual trust, promote the synergy of the Belt and Road Initiative, and jointly build Piraeus into a world-class port.

China encouraged Greek companies to participate in the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) to showcase Greek products for which more Chinese are developing a taste and liking.

He said the two countries should continue to hold the Ancient Civilizations Forum to promote exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations and jointly oppose the fallacy of the “clash of civilizations.”

He also urged both countries to further advance the stable development of China-EU relations and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries as well.