With Greece about to let tourists from China be in the first wave of visitors as the COVID-19 Coronavirus restrictions gradually lift, Former premier George Papandreou said it will further open the door for China’s interests in the European Union.
Speaking to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Papandreou - who resigned in November, 2011 after pulling back an anti-austerity referendum he’d planned while heading the now defunct PASOK Socialists - said Greece is the linchpin for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to the EU.
China already has major investments in Greece, led by the shipping operations company COSCO running the port of Piraeus and transforming it one of the best and busiest in the EU, set for further renovations under the New Democracy government.
“The experiences of our productive cooperation can be very useful at a European level. I believe in a productive relationship between China and the European Union,” Papandreou stated.
“The Belt and Road Initiative should be a joint project, and one that will redefine our relationships for the next century. It will be crucial that Europe and China work together in regions such as Africa, the Caucasus and the Middle East,” where the BRI project is being implemented, Papandreou said.
“Greece will be a strong link between China and other European countries,” he said without mentioning critics fearing China is using Greece as a cover to get deeper into the bloc and spread its political and business strategies to make countries dependent.
He said there’s now an opportunity for Greece and China - where COVID-19 began - to work together in the healthcare sector and offer new approaches.
“As the Belt and Road project speaks of both common interests and common destinies, health seems to be the one issue that highlights these values. Access for all citizens without exceptions to the health systems of the countries participating in this comprehensive project would strengthen the Belt and Road and give it a deeper meaning,” he argued.
The BRI, also called the New Silk Road, is China’s estimated $1.5 trillion foreign and economic policy, announced in 2013, to establish maritime trade routes across the globe and invest in infrastructure projects in dozens of countries around the world.
The projects include pipelines, ports, railways and other major infrastructure projects. In 2019, Chinese media reported 170 memoranda of understanding had been signed with 125 countries.