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Greek govt in u-turn: Piraeus port sale back on

Greek govt in u-turn: Piraeus port sale back on
Greek government officials have underlined the cash-strapped country’s interest in further developing co-operation with China in logistics and transport infrastructure, in the wake of Cosco Group’s strategic investment in the port of Piraeus.

As Greece urgently looks to raise funds, the country’s deputy Prime Minister, Yannis Dragasakis and its Foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias have just returned to Athens after a four-day visit to China with the mission of boosting bilateral investments and export trade.

During the visit Dragasakis told China's official Xinhua news agency that Athens will sell its majority stake in the Piraeus port within weeks, marking a complete reversal from the leftwing Syriza Party’s position prior to its election to power at the end January.

Further, during the March 25 / 28 visit, Dragasakis indicated China’s Cosco Group - short-listed in a process launched by the previous centre-right government - was a front runner for the state's 67% stake held in the Athens Stock Exchange-listed Piraeus Port Authority.

China has invested heavily in Piraeus since Cosco¹s port terminal arm, Cosco Pacific, secured a 35-year concession in 2009 to operate the port’s container terminals II and III.

The investment is paying off as the terminals are described by Cosco as “thriving”, a fact reflected in their 2014 performance when net profit rose 29% year-on-year to $29m.

In addition, Piraeus is seen as a key element in Beijing’s ambitious so-called Silk Road project linking Central, West and South Asia to Greece, Russia and Oman, increasing China's connections to Europe and Africa.

Prior to Dragasakis’ comments, Foreign minister Kotzias met with Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi who was quoted by state news agencies as saying the Cosco-run Piraeus container facility was “a paradigm of mutually beneficial co-operation” between the two countries".

The government of Alexis Tsipras has sent out mixed signals about the fate of privatisation projects like Piraeus and there are factions in his government coalition which are even unhappy with the existing concessiondeal with Cosco.

The day after the Greek delegation left for home, China's President Xi Jinping said he hoped its annual trade with the countries involved in the modern Silk Road plan would surpass $2.5trn in a decade. By way of comparison, China's trade with the European Union in 2013 amounted to EUR428.1bn ($466.1bn).