China’s Cosco Group shipping giant plans to invest around $1 billion in Greece’s Port of Piraeus to help turn the ancient harbor into a main entry point for Chinese exports to Europe.
The new investment comes on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Greece earlier in the month, when he toured the port just outside Athens with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. While there he called Piraeus “the head of the dragon” for a new Beijing investment drive in the country.
In 2016, Cosco purchased a majority stake in the ancient port of Piraeus. Situated in the Saronic Gulf, Greece’s largest — and Europe’s seventh largest — harbor is in a very strategic location between the Asian and European continents.
“The objective is to transform it into the biggest transit hub between Europe and Asia and, potentially, the biggest port in Europe,” Kostas Fragogiannis, Greece’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, told the American business network CNBC last week.
Piraeus is behind the Netherlands’ ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, Germany’s Hamburg and Bremen-Bremerhaven, and Spain’s Valenicia and Algeciras, as well as Britain’s Felixstowe, but is growing as a port under the hand of COSCO.
“The geographical advantages of Greek ports can be utilized for facilitating and increasing transfer flows from China and the Far East to the European Union, the Balkans and the Black Sea region, and vice versa,” Fragogiannis told CNBC.
In a Nov. 15 address to the Thessaloniki Summit 2019, organized by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece, Shipping Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis stated “COSCO’s investments in Piraeus are the key which will unlock future investments over the coming period in Greece.”
The minister also said that relations between Greece and China are not limited to the port of Piraeus, pointing out that the recent opening of branches by two major Chinese banks in Athens proved that “there is much yet to come.”