Beijing.- ANA, Xinhua
Enhancing relations with China was a “strategic choice” made by the Greek government, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with China’s Xinhua news agency. At the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is visiting China from July 2 to July 6.until July 6, for a visit that also coincides with the 10th anniversary since Greece and China launched the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2006.
“My visit to Beijing and Shanghai signals Greece and China’s joint will to take a big step forward, using our important collaboration in the port of Piraeus as a springboard, on the basis of a new, mutually beneficial agreement and the completion of the Year of Maritime Cooperation [in 2015],” Tsipras said in the interview, a part of which was obtained and republished by the ANA.
It would mark a step toward becoming true strategic partners, with enhanced trade and investment relations in a series of sectors, but also to take political dialogue to a new level at a very critical time, he added.
During the interview with Xinhua News Agency on Friday, 1st of July, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli said that the visit will be an important one against a profound background and that the two sides should seize this important opportunity to push bilateral relations further ahead.
Zou pointed out that there are four important backgrounds for the visit. First, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Greece. Second, COSCO is going to expand mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with Greece at the Port of Piraeus. Third, the regional landscape where Greece is located is undergoing profound changes and adjustments. Fourth, the “Belt and Road” is extending steadily to Europe.
During the visit of Prime Minister Tsipras, the two sides will release a joint statement to reflect the outcomes of the visit. The two sides will hold the Second China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum. They will also sign a series of cooperation agreements on investment, finance, shipping, science and technology, culture, and tourism to build platforms for the strengthening of cooperation between the two sides.
Zou said that China and Greece established the comprehensive and strategic partnership in 2006, which conforms to the long-term and important interests of both countries and is assuming increasing regional and global significance. Over the past 10 years, the content of this relationship has been constantly enriched. We appreciate the important contribution of various sectors of both countries and we are confident that, under the concerted efforts of both sides, our friendly cooperation will be more fruitful than ever.
When talking about the COSCO Piraeus project, Zou pointed out that the project is a fine example of China-Greece cooperation, the significance of which has gone beyond economic cooperation and bilateral scope and has assumed great importance for promoting regional peace and development as well.
Zou said that Greece is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and its neighboring region has been hit by factors of instability such as war, refugees, and terrorism. This has enhanced the role of Greece as the anchor of stability and development in the East Mediterranean. Middle East countries also wish that Greece can continue to act as a bridge between them and the EU. Greece itself has been very active in its diplomacy and the debt crisis has not undermined its important role in foreign affairs.
Tsipras said trade relations between Greece and China are already at a very good level. The Greek government aims, in particular, to further increase our already significant exports of Greek products to the large Chinese market – especially in the agricultural and foods sector – and to act on the strong interest shown by Chinese companies for investment in Greece, chiefly in the sectors of transport and infrastructure. Exploring cultural and educational exchanges, the transfer of new technology and the growth of tourism flows by organising a direct air connection are also immediate targets,” Tsipras said.
The Greek prime minister said his visit to China, which was taking place at a crucial time for the Greek economy but also a difficult moment for the international community and the EU, would be an opportunity to revisit and discuss the contents of the strategic partnership with China.
“We will examine specific political issues that concern Greece and China, we will adopt a Joint Statement of the two premiers and we will sign a series of agreements for cooperation in various sectors of the economy, culture, education and technological research,” he said.
The prime minister emphasised Greece’s value to China as a gateway to Europe, due to its geographic and geostrategic position, both for Chinese goods and as a ‘bridge’ for building Sino-European relations. He said the Greek government’s goal was to make Greece an intermodal transport hub, dovetailing with China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, and the possible benefits for both sides in transport, logistics and manufacturing.
Greece and China
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang are to sign a joint statement proclaiming an upgrade and extension of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Greece and China first launched in 2006 when they meet in Beijing next week, sources said on Friday.
Tsipras and a large Greek delegation were scheduled to depart for a six-day visit to China on Friday, where he is to meet the Chinese premier on Monday.
The joint statement will have two sections, the first of which will concern a higher level of political dialogue between the two countries on international and regional issues of mutual interest. This is seen as exceptionally useful, given China’s weight in world affairs and its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The economic section of the statement will refer to bilateral cooperation in sectors such as technology, trade, investments, transport and infrastructure.
The two sides will also sign separate agreements on cooperation in culture, education, investments and exports during the Greek prime minister’s visit, while the Greek delegation that is expected to have numerous contacts with world-class Chinese companies. More business meetings and the signature of agreements between Greek and Chinese companies are expected to take place during a business forum organised during the visit.
There are high hopes that Tsipras’ visit will help raise Sino-Greek economic and political relations to a new level according to five academic institutions making up the Consortium for Chinese Studies in Greece. These include the International Economic Relations Institute (IDOS), the Panteion University’s International Relations Institute, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Economic Policy, the Political Science and International Relations Department of the University of the Peloponnese and the Aegean University’s Mediterranean Studies department.
According to an analysis issued by the consortium, emphasis has been given to cooperation between Greek shipping companies and Chinese shipyards, while efforts are being made to attract Chinese tourists with encouraging results. There is less progress, by contrast, on creating the conditions to increase Greek exports to China, despite the enormous size of the Chinese market, which ranks second in the world with a GDP of six trillion dollars.
The consortium noted that the prime minister’s visit, which coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries, should aim to achieve the following goals:
- a) Confirm Greece’s role as a transit centre on the Europe-East Asia maritime trade route, with support for logistics and intermodal transport services and rapid completion of the Piraeus port privatisation.
- b) Further promote Greece as a focus of investment interest, encouraging links between Greek and Chinese firms.
- c) Support Greek business in their efforts for an organised expansion into the Chinese market, in order to take advantage of an anticipated increase in private consumption and boost Greek exports.
- d) Help increase the flow of Chinese tourists to Greece by facilitating access.
- e) Develop cohesive strategic cooperation between Greek and Chinese educational and research institutions.