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Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 12:40

New Greek govt to expand China ties

By Xinhua

 New Greek govt to expand China ties
A picture taken on Jan 31, 2015 shows Greece's largest port in Piraeus, near Athens. (AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS)

ATHENS - Despite initial statements by Greek ministers which caused jitters to foreign investors, Greek officials and analysts recently reassured that, in particular in China's case, the future of Sino-Greek cooperation was sound and that the developing strategic relationship between the two countries would not be disrupted.

On the contrary, the new anti-austerity government aims to broaden and strengthen bilateral collaboration in several sectors, cabinet ministers and the party's chief economist John Milios told local media.

A week after the radical leftist, anti-austerity Syriza party won Greece's general elections and assumed office, the government halted privatization projects launched by previous governments under bailout deals. This included the plan for selling 67 percent of stakes in the Piraeus port, where Chinese group COSCO has had a strong presence over the past five years.

COSCO's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) manages Piers II and III at Greece's largest port of Piraeus since 2009 under a 35-year concession agreement.

The bid for the purchase of the 67 percent-stake at Piraeus Port Authority was planned in the context of the wider 50 billion euros (US$ 57.16 billion) privatization program of Greek state assets launched in 2010 under the stability and reform program to help overcome the debt crisis.

SYRIZA opposed the rationale of the privatization program from the start as counterproductive for Greece's interests.

Alternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas told media after being sworn in last week that "the public character of Piraeus port will be maintained. The privatization stops right here, right now." He added that "Greek people are connected with relations of friendship and solidarity with the Chinese people. We will find solutions to the benefit of Greek society."

Following a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli and Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister Giorgos Stathakis, Dritsas told Greek daily Nea (News) that calling off the port's privatization "does not mean in any case that we are also canceling the deal with PCT. On the contrary, we seek to upgrade our ties with China to improve the current bilateral agreement."

Both Greek cabinet ministers tried to appease concerns, clarifying that Sino-Greek collaboration would not be disturbed, but on the contrary would be enhanced, according to ministry statements.

New Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has welcomed Chinese investments in Greece.

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