While Europe fights an uphill battle against the second wave of COVID-19, Chinese and Greek political and business leaders look ahead to expand cooperation in a post-pandemic economy.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing on Nov 18 to designate 2021 as the China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism.
James Tang, senior vice-president of Ctrip, one of the world’s largest online travel platforms, said on Monday that Greece is becoming a hot destination for Chinese tourists, who made 220,000 visits to Greece in 2019.
He described Greece as the top standard for the tourism industry and will be able to lead in the sector’s recovery.
“We will continue to invest in our operations there, and promote Greece as a high-end, unique and fantastic destination for Chinese tourists,” he told an online forum entitled Greece, an emerging investment destination in post-COVID-19 Europe.
Constantine Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, cited a recent Ernst &Young study which shows Greece as one of the most attractive foreign investment destinations in Europe.
Michalos said the two countries have forged a strong relationship at the political and business levels, with fruitful cooperation in the shipping, shipbuilding and repair industries, transportation, commerce, tourism, and cultural sectors.
He noted new opportunities in shipping infrastructure and transport services.
Kostas Karamanlis, the Greek minister of Infrastructure &Transport, said his ministry is working hard toward the goal set by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to put Greece back on track.
He emphasized that Greece will invest in sectors of comparative advantage such as logistics, multimodal transport, rail and port interconnectivity, and the new generation of infrastructure projects.
Both Karamanlis and Michalos applauded the successful China-Greece cooperation in the Piraeus Port, a joint venture between China’s COSCO Shipping and Greek partners which has become the largest container port in the Mediterranean and fourth largest in Europe, creating 10,000 jobs.
Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese ambassador to Greece, said China and Greece have always enjoyed traditionally good relations, which were reinforced this year by their cooperation in jointly fighting the pandemic.
President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Greece last November, about a week after Mitsotakis led a business delegation to Shanghai for the 2nd China International Import Expo.
Zhang noted that China is embarking on high-quality development while Greece is restructuring its economy. “I hope our businesses will look into new areas for cooperation, areas such as green energy, innovation, e-commerce, and also cooperation in smart infrastructure, digital infrastructure, health and the service sector.”
Xu Haifeng, chairman and CEO of Bank of China (Luxembourg) S.A., said the BOC will focus on its strategy as a bridge between China and Greece, providing financial support for bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation.
Haris Lambropoulos, president of Hellenic Development Bank, echoed those views.
He raised the possibility of cooperation in equity investment through his bank’s co-investment program and the newly launched Green Greek Fund for investment in green energy, circular economy and green infrastructure projects.