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Newsletter May 2013


Prime Minister Visits China—Invest in Greece signs Cooperation Agreement

Greece offers superb investment opportunities in a wide variety of sectors. In May, the Greek Prime Minister led a mission to China to showcase these opportunities.

Greece is building a success story, and it wants China to be part of that story, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on May 16, speaking at the Academy of Social Sciences of China.

In China on an official visit from May 15-19 with a delegation of businesspeople, Mr. Samaras said, "Greece is changing. I want to thank you because China is standing by us and supported our stay in the European Union. The Greek 'comeback' is already visible. I would not have been here if our course had not changed and we had not guaranteed our 'comeback'."

"Greece is building a success story and we want China to be part of this story," he added.

Speaking on the role China can play in bilateral relations, he said, "We want to work with Chinese enterprises. Chinese businesses can invest in logistics to bring Europe closer to China." The four sectors he highlighted include tourism, Greek agricultural products, coastal land development, and tourism/culture.

Mr. Samaras referred to the investment by China-based shipping company Cosco, which manages the container section of the port of Piraeus, saying that "Cosco made an important investment in the port of Piraeus during [economically] difficult times; now it can take advantage of Greece's location and invest in the ports of the island of Crete and the Athens airport."

Speaking on the relationship between Greece and China, he said "ten years have passed since the first strategic agreement between the EU and China, and this [collaboration] can extend much further."

Agreements Signed by China and Greece
Chinese companies desire involvement in Greece's infrastructure sector, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on May 16, after talks with visiting Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The two premiers discussed all aspects of Greek-Chinese relations during their meeting, especially economic cooperation and long-range strategic plans. Following their talks, a number of agreements and protocols were signed by the Greek side and the Chinese government.

Mr. Samaras was on an official visit to China until May 19, accompanied by a delegation of 87 Greek business leaders, after which he flew to Azerbaijan for a one-day visit.

"We are global shipping powers and we can cooperate in many areas. Since 2010 there has been heightened cooperation, while Chinese companies desire to become active in the infrastructure sectors. We will take action to boost commercial transactions, with the target of increasing the volume of transactions to eight billion Euro in 2015," the Chinese premier said during a dinner for the Greek mission.

Referring to geopolitical issues, Mr. Li Keqiang noted that China is Greece's ally in the Cyprus issue and asked for Athens' help in improving China's relations with the European Union, especially in light of Greece's upcoming stint in the EU presidency in the first half of 2014.

He also asked Athens to reduce bureaucracy and simplify the process for issuing visas.

Responding, Mr. Samaras noted that the new investment law made provision for fast-track procedures that will make Chinese investment easier, adding that the Greek government "is here to look at everything, step by step, and facilitate our cooperation."

Specifically, they discussed expanding the activity of the Chinese container company Cosco at the main port of Greece, Piraeus, and the possibility of Chinese investment in Greek railroads and regional airports and ports.

The agreements signed by the two sides include:
 - A Cooperation Protocol with China Development Bank, signed by Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) President Stelios Stavridis and aiming to promote the Greek Privatisation Programme and the active participation of Chinese companies. Government officials hailed the interest expressed by the leading financial organisation as a sign that the Chinese have confidence in Greece's prospects for economic growth.

  -A Cooperation Agreement between China Development Bank and Invest in Greece, signed by Invest in Greece CEO Stephanos Issaias, to promote economic cooperation in priority sectors, such as tourism, real estate, telecommunications, transport, energy and investment financing. Based on this, China Development Bank will promote Invest in Greece's plans for investments involving Chinese companies and finance their implementation after an assessment. The Greek government's intention to establish an Institute for Growth aimed at boosting the Greek economy was warmly welcomed by the China Development Bank, which will consider participating in the international cooperation.

- A Cooperation Memorandum with the Chinese company Huawei, signed by Greek Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Kostis Hatzidakis. In the next three years, the company will create a logistics hub in Greece and a center for research and innovation, in cooperation with leading Greek research centres and Greek technological companies. Also, Huawei is willing to cooperate with Greek universities and Research Centres and offer training to students and young graduates. 

- A Cooperation Memorandum with the Chinese company ZTE—again signed by Mr. Hatzidakis—which will undertake to turn the port of Piraeus into a transit and logistics hub for ZTE products in Europe and the greater Mediterranean region. ZTE is among the five leading manufacturers of telecommunications equipment worldwide. Its clients include more than 500 telecommunications providers worldwide and it has a presence in over 140 countries, including Greece.

Prime Minister Continues Asian Visit to Azerbaijan
The Greek Prime Minister followed his visit to China with a one-day stop in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 19, 2013, where he met with the country’s president Ilham Aliyev. One of the main topics of discussion was the 800-kilometer Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Western Europe through Greece.

The TAP pipeline is expected to initially ship 10 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas per year from Turkey to Italy through Greece and Albania. The opposing proposal by OMV AG-led Nabucco West entails a 1,300-kilometer pipeline from Turkey to Austria through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Statoil ASA, EON Ruhrgas AG, and EGL AG are the TAP project developers.

“We are in the final stretch so that by June the Azeris will have opted for TAP as their choice for transporting gas to Europe,” said Panayiotis Mihalos, Secretary General of International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation at Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Greek government considers the visit to Baku a success, according to Rikard Scoufias, TAP’s country manager for Greece.

The TAP pipeline will result in 1.5 billion Euro in investments for Greece, 340 million Euro of added value to the Greek economy each year, and the direct creation of 2,000 new jobs, according to a study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).

During the Prime Minister’s visit to Baku, the two leaders also discussed the purchase of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas network operator, by SOCAR, Azerbaijan’s state oil company, as well as closer cooperation in tourism and culture.

“We stabilised the country’s position in Europe and now we are stabilising it on the world map. Opportunities to be outward-looking and to attract investment are the only way to fight and beat unemployment,” said Mr. Samaras. 

Photo: ANA - MPA