Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on July 19 will host Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for meetings that are expected to include more agreements being signed as China boosts its presence in Greece.
The Chinese company Cosco already essentially runs the port of Piraeus and Samaras is seeking more investors to meet pressure from the country’s international lenders who want the pace of privatization to be sped up. Greece is looking to sell off many of its assets, including more properties and enterprises in ports, airports and state-run operations.
Li will be in Greece for thee days and both sides are expected to reaffirm their commitment to boosting bilateral trade ties. The Chinese leader will be accompanied by a 14-member government delegation and, in a letter published in Kathimerini, noted his his intention to “open up new prospects for a deeper China-Greece relationship.”
Describing the Greek and Chinese economies as “mutually complementary,” the Chinese premier said he saw “huge potential for cooperation.”
Expanding Cosco’s hold on Piraeus, the country’s busiest port, is a key aim for the Chinese as Li said his country “will work with Greece to make the port the best of its kind in the Mediterranean.”
On June 20 the two leaders are scheduled to visit Cosco’s facilities in Piraeus in a symbolic appearance as the firm is aiming to acquire 67 percent of the Piraeus Port Authority’s share capital.
Li also expressed interest in “airport, rail, road and other infrastructure development”” as well as in maritime transport, logistics and shipbuilding.
He described tourism as an “important growth area for China-Greece cooperation,” noting that officials from both sides would sign an agreement foreseeing the creation of cultural centers to facilitate “people-to-people exchanges.” Greece has reached out to Chinese tourists, a number of whom come to Greek islands for marriages.
Samaras and Li are also expected to sign several more pacts foreseeing closer cooperation in shipping, infrastructure, financial services and exports.
The two leaders also also scheduled to address a forum exploring opportunities in shipping, investments and trade. In another symbolic trip the two leaders are due to travel to Crete, one of Greece’s top tourist destinations. While there, the Chinese premier is expected to repeat Beijing’s interest in the new international airport near the port of Iraklio.
Li’s visit comes nearly a month before a trip by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Rhodes, another top tourist destination. Xi is set to meet his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias there.
In a letter sent to Papoulias earlier this month, the Chinese statesman reportedly described Greece as “a strategic partner” and reaffirmed Beijing’s interest in making major investments in the country.