Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warmly welcomed the President, executives and employees of COSCO’s headquarters in Shanghai on Monday morning (Greek time).
“I visited you as the leader of the opposition in April (in Piraeus) and I told you that if the Greek people trusted us, we would proceed with the approval of the master plan,” the Prime Minister said at a meeting of the Greek delegation with the business leadership.
(Piraeus Port Authority SA is operated by China’s COSCO Shipping Ports Limited.)
“Indeed, the Greek people on July 7 ordered us to implement our financial plan. We are doing nothing other than what we were committed to, ”Mr Mitsotakis added.
For his part, COSCO President Xu Lirong thanked the Prime Minister for swiftly approving the new investment plan, and the two men agreed that the two sides’ common goal is to make Piraeus the first port in Europe.
In addition, the Prime Minister noted that with the new infrastructure and new hotels the goal is now for Piraeus to become a world-class cruise center. At the same time, Mr. Mitsotakis welcomed the Chinese interest in supporting shipbuilding activity in Perama and suggested to the Chinese side its participation in the ambitious project of creating a museum of Underwater Antiquities in Piraeus.
Greek Foreign Minister Yannis Plakiotakis, Deputy Foreign Minister for Investment Frangogiannis, Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis and Attiki Regional Governor George Patoulis were also present at the meeting.
The COSCO administration delivered a lunch to the Greek delegation. President Xu Lirong toured the prime minister’s headquarters, explaining how the company’s information system works, capturing the location of every ship around the world at any given time.
The Prime Minister said:
“It is my great pleasure that on my first visit as Prime Minister of the country to China I have been given the opportunity to visit you here at your headquarters in Shanghai.
I am very pleased that you mentioned my previous visit to Piraeus Port, your headquarters in Greece, where we had the opportunity to discuss with your partners the prospects of further expanding this important investment that you have made in our home country.
History sometimes makes interesting circles. I can not forget that it was a New Democracy government, with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the one who first envisioned and took the first steps for this important investment.
At that time there was still much reaction and suspicion by the majority of Greek public opinion about the overall utility of such an investment. But I think the reality itself has at least denied the bona fide critics of the original idea to invest in Greece. The results speak for themselves. Piraeus was a port that was virtually inoperative and within a few years it has become the best port for freight in the Mediterranean 3,000 jobs were created and many more indirect jobs linked to overall economic activity at the port.
I also want to stress that this investment was made in our country during a deep financial crisis. As I said in my speech at the Hellenic-Chinese Business Forum, your company and China as a whole believed and invested in my home country when many thought that investment prospects in Greece were non-existent.
But I believe that both you and us now have every reason to be pleased with the evolution. When I had visited you in Piraeus – still in the capacity of the leader of the opposition – I had said that if the Greek people trusted us, we would proceed with the approval of the master plan to proceed with the overall COSCO investment plan in Piraeus. Indeed, on July 7, the Greek people gave us a strong mandate to implement our financial plan. We do nothing more than we were committed to the Greek people, and we look forward to the completion of this investment project, which will highlight important aspects of Piraeus Port, which go far beyond the transit activity. centre.
We have the great pleasure of having the Mayor of Piraeus with you, whom you know. And he has been an active participant in the development of the master plan, so that this investment will be of great benefit to you, both for the Greek economy and for the local community. I attach great importance to the new infrastructure that will be created in Piraeus, to the new hotels, but mainly to the emergence of Piraeus as a world-class cruise center. There we believe that we have a very important prospect of turning Athens, and therefore Piraeus, into a hub for many large cruise companies.
I also welcome the interest in shipbuilding activity, while stressing that it is very important that this interest is expressed and supported in the very important domestic shipbuilding activity that already exists in Greece in Perama.
I would also like to inform you that the supplementary plan to extend the port’s capacity as regards container management is a point to be discussed. The Greek government is very positive from the outset, provided that we can convince the local community – possibly through a series of offsetting benefits – that this investment will be in its overall interest and not deteriorate the quality of the environment.
But our desire is common: to turn Piraeus into Europe’s largest port, after all. Because you don’t need to be a logistics expert, a simple glance at the map is enough to understand how important Piraeus is as a gateway for products from around the world – especially Asia – to Eastern Europe and Western Europe.
In the context of the Piraeus-Budapest railway connection, but also of our country’s overall presence as a logistics hub, I believe that the prospects for cooperation are still very important.
Mr President, Greece and China have traditional ties. We are both naval countries. We must not forget that at some levels, such as maritime activity, we may be competitors, but at others we are partners.
I am very pleased – and I will close with this observation – that you mentioned a great man in Greek shipping, Vassilis Konstantakopoulos, and the cooperation you still have today. He was a visionary shipowner who decided to invest a significant portion of his fortune in his home country of the western Peloponnese, turning it into a major tourist destination.
Again, Mr President, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome. Let me tell you that the Minister of Merchant Shipping, Mr. Plakiotakis, is with us, who had the first say in the negotiations with your company and which I would like to thank for the speed with which he responded to the central direction of the government.
I look forward to the rapid implementation of your investment plan, so that together we will be able to launch the next step of COSCO’s significant presence in the port of Piraeus. Thanks again.”
In the second part of his speech, the Prime Minister stated:
Thank you again for your kind words and for mentioning my lineup. We know that the best response to critics of this government is the good jobs that this investment has done for our mostly unemployed fellow citizens, jobs that can grow significantly through the new investment plan approved.
Indeed, the prospects for Piraeus are extremely important. We will be assisting, in consultation with the local community, the Attica Region, represented by Mr. Patoulis in our mission. But I want you to know that in substance in Greece there are no longer any substantial objections to this investment, and that, I believe, is a major achievement.
This allows us to be able to move faster and more ambitiously so that we can achieve what is essentially our common goal.
Mr President, again, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome, especially what we have seen on the ground floor, with young children working in your company holding together Greek and Chinese flags.
I think that the relations between the two countries go beyond the mutual economic benefit that economic cooperation creates for both countries. We are two ancient cultures with great respect for one another. We may also be able to add Piraeus to the dimension of culture, to this very important investment.
It is our intention to turn one of the old silos of the port of Piraeus into a
beautiful museum of underwater antiquities. There may also be scope for cooperation in this area. Why not; Give us a piece of the museum so that China can exhibit some of its own great ships from centuries past. We should also not forget that at some time, not so long ago, China built the largest ships in the world and then explored the world in a peaceful way as we knew it.
Source: Government of Greece, Greek Reporter
Publication: Patrycja Zając