In a meeting without neckties, Premier Li Keqiang and his Greek counterpart vowed on Monday to forge a famous Greek port into a top-level one in the Mediterranean, following the approval of a landmark concession deal.
The visit to Beijing by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came after the Greek Parliament approved on June 30 the purchase by China Cosco Shipping Corp of a majority stake in the Piraeus Port Authority.
The company signed an agreement with Greece’s privatization fund in April to acquire a 67 percent stake in the PPA.
In a light start, Li took off his tie at the meeting at the Great Hall of the People, as Tsipras vowed not to wear a tie until Greece walks out of the shadow of its debt crisis.
“We are willing to make efforts with Greece to forge the Piraeus Port into a top-level port and logistics center in the Mediterranean, and make it a major gateway on the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route and Asia-Europe interconnection,” Li said.
Piraeus is at the southern end of the China-Europe land-sea route, a transport line under construction that starts in Hungary and runs through Serbia and Macedonia. The line is expected to ensure faster delivery of goods between China and Europe.
In 2008, China Cosco secured a 35-year deal to operate two container terminals in the port.
Li also noted that Beijing has “paid great attention to changes in the situation in Europe”.
“We firmly support the integration of Europe and have always believed that a prosperous and stable European Union is in the interests of all sides,” he said.
Tsipras said the approval of a deal on the Piraeus Port is expected to usher in greater bilateral cooperation covering not only trade, but also culture, tourism, shipping and emerging technologies.
The two premiers witnessed the signing of nine cooperation agreements, including one confirming the port’s date of transfer.
Tsipras is on a five-day visit to China that started Saturday. He also will visit Shanghai.
Wang Yiwei, an expert on European studies with Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said the port will be a flagship project in maritime cooperation between China and Europe.
“It will also greatly raise China’s negotiating power in the global shipping industry, as Greece plays a notable role in it,” he added.